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1938 - Nuremberg

Nuremberg Rally - the annual Nazi Party rally was a key propaganda event showcasing the intimidating might, organization and commitment of Hitler's supporters

Although there were earlier rallies of the Nazi Party in Nuremberg (in 1923, 1926, 1927 and 1929), it is the rallies held in the city between 1933 and 1938 after Hitler came to power that showed Germans and the world how huge gatherings with tremendous spectacle and displays of strength could be used to shape the views and feelings of many millions of German people choosing Nuremberg as the venue for Nazi Party rallies, Hitler and his associates wanted to emphasise the continuity of German history.


Nuremberg had been a major medieval town, at the junction of a number of significant trade routes. It was also the birthplace of the great Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, and the centre of a strong tradition of popular poetry and song known as Meistersänger). Thus to Hitler and other Nazi leaders Nuremberg seemed to provide a suitable backdrop and arena for their displays of power and the broadcasting of the messages that their propagandists designed to win support for their policies.

The final rally, in 1938, ran from 5th to 12th September and was the biggest ever. The theme was ‘Greater Germany’and each day was devoted to a separate topic: Welcome, Congress of Labour, Fellowship, Politics, Youth, Storm Troopers and Armed Forces. The experience of the previous rallies was drawn on to ensure the effectiveness of the parades, banners, speeches, torchlight processions and fireworks. Attended by over one million people, the events were recorded by hundreds of reporters from all over the world. However, this was the final Nuremberg spectacle: a year later, Germany was at war.


Further Reading

Wikipedia - A Brutal Pageantry: The Third Reich's Myth-Making Machinery

Mashable - Nuremberg Rallies (1933-38)

Nurnberg Museum - The Nazi Party Rallies

Rare Historical Photos Color photos from Pre-War Nazi Germany - Colour Footage of Nuremberg Rally 1938

1938 - Anschluss_Sudetenland

Anschluss + Annexation of Sudetenland - annexations of Austria and Sudetenland, territories Hitler considered as part of Greater Germany, reveal the extent of Nazi ambitions in Europe

One of the Nazi’s ideologies was to re-unite all Germans either born or living outside of the Reich in order to create an “all-German Reich”. From the early beginning of his leadership in the Nazi Party, Hitler had publicly stated in his 1924 autobiography (Mein Kampf) that he would create a union between his birth country and Germany, by any means possible.


In early 1938, Austrian Nazis conspired for the second time in four years to seize the Austrian government by force and unite their nation with Nazi Germany. Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, learning of the conspiracy, met with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in the hopes of reasserting his country’s independence but was instead bullied into naming several top Austrian Nazis to his cabinet.


On March 9, Schuschnigg called a national vote to resolve the question of Anschluss, or “annexation,” once and for all. Before the plebiscite could take place, however, Schuschnigg gave in to pressure from Hitler and resigned on March 11. In his resignation address, under coercion from the Nazis, he pleaded with Austrian forces not to resist a German “advance” into the country.


The next day, March 12, Hitler accompanied German troops into Austria, where enthusiastic crowds met them with Nazi salutes,  flags, and flowers. Because of this, the the annexation was also called the Blumenkrieg (war of flowers). Hitler quickly appointed a new Nazi government, and on March 13 the Anschluss was proclaimed.

However, Hitler was not finished; he had his eyes set on the Sudetenland, which was rich in the natural resources necessary for war, and conveniently populated by ethnic Germans – many of whom genuinely wanted to return to German rule.


Hitler’s first move was to order the Sudeten Nazi Party to demand full autonomy for ethnic Germans from Czech leader Benes, knowing that these demands would be refused. He then circulated tales of Czech atrocities towards Sudeten Germans and emphasised their desire to once again be under German rule, in an effort to legitimise his annexation of the territory.

If his intentions weren’t already clear enough, 750,000 German troops were sent to the Czech border, officially in order to carry out manoeuvres. Unsurprisingly, these developments greatly alarmed the British, who were desperate to avoid another war.

At this point Hitler was aware that the Allies were desperate to avoid war, and thought it likely that they would appease his demands. Hitler threatened war over the issue of the Sudetenland. On the 29 – 30 September 1938 the British, Italian, French and German leaders met in Munich to discuss the issue. The Allies agreed to concede the Sudetenland to Germany in exchange for a pledge of peace. This agreement was known as the Munich Pact.

Although the agreement was to give into Hitler’s hands only the Sudentenland, that part of Czechoslovakia where 3 million ethnic Germans lived, it also handed over to the Nazi war machine 66 percent of Czechoslovakia’s coal, 70 percent of its iron and steel, and 70 percent of its electrical power. Without those resources, the Czech nation was left vulnerable to complete German domination.


No matter what concessions the Czech government attempted to make to appease Hitler, whether dissolving the Communist Party or suspending all Jewish teachers in ethnic-German majority schools, rumors continued to circulate about “the incorporation of Czechoslovakia into the Reich.” 

The Munich Pact, which according to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had purchased “peace in our time,” was actually a mere negotiating ploy by the Hitler, only temporarily delaying the Fuhrer’s blood and land lust.


Further Reading


US Holocaust Memorial Museum - German Pre-War Expansion

BBC - Witness History: The Anschluss - Nazi troops Pour Into Sudetenland

1938 - Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht -  'The Night of the Broken Glass' was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germanycarried out by SA paramilitary forces and civilians

During Kristallnacht anti-Semitic rioters terrorized Jews throughout Germany and its territories. They vandalized homes and businesses, attacked and harassed Jewish people, and destroyed their places of worship. 

Anti-Jewish rhetoric had become common in Germany by 1938. For years, the Nazi Party had passed anti-Jewish laws that restricted Jewish life, from curtailing the number of Jewish students at universities to forcing Jews to carry ID cards and forbidding Jewish people from owning most businesses.

Then, on November 7, 1938, the floodgates opened when Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew, shot Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat in Paris. The Nazi Party used vom Rath’s death two days later as an excuse to fan the flames of anti-Semitism. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivered a speech that blamed the attack on Jews and suggested the government would do nothing to prevent reprisals against German Jews.

Suddenly, violence against Jews broke out all over Germany and its territories. Mobs attacked an estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned stores and businesses, breaking windows and looting. They broke into synagogues, vandalizing their interiors, smashing everything they could find, and burning more than 1,000 places of worship.

The mobs attacked Jewish people, beating them and humiliating them in the streets and killing at least 96 people. And they rounded up an estimated 30,000 Jewish men, arresting them and sending most to concentration camps. Though the attacks seemed random, most were carried out by Nazi Party adherents who had been given instructions to riot as police looked the other way.

The damage was devastating, but it was only the beginning. “First they burned down the synagogue,” recalled Dennis Urstein, who experienced Kristallnacht in Vienna when he was 14 years old. “Then people were put on the street, cleaning the streets and being spit upon and hit upon and [called racial slurs]…I just couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand why it was done.”

In the aftermath, the German government blamed the Jews for the attacks against them, levied a massive fine on German Jews, and forced them to hand over insurance payouts they received for the damage. A series of strict anti-Jewish laws followed. Though Kristallnacht took place three years before Adolf Hitler began to implement his “final solution”—the murder of all of Europe’s Jews—the violent rampage marked the beginning of the Holocaust. 


Further Reading


US Holocaust Memorial Museum - Kristallnacht

Yad Vashem - The Kristallnacht Pogrom

Jewish JournalWitnesses to Kristallnacht

1938 - Arab Revolt

Arab Revolt -  British proposals to lower tensions in Palestine are rejected, resulting in an escalation of violence from both Arabs rebels and Jewish paramilitaries, requiring British military repression

In July 1937, the Peel Commission published a report into the Palestine disturbances that had been ongoing since 1936, recommending Palestine’s partition into Jewish and Arab states. Dismayed by this negation of their desires and demands, the Palestinian population relaunched their armed insurgency with renewed intensity, initiating the second phase of the revolt.

This second phase, lasting from July 1937 until the fall of 1938, witnessed significant gains by the Palestinian rebels. Large swaths of the hilly Palestinian interior, including for a time the Old City of Jerusalem, fell fully under rebel control. Rebels established institutions, most significantly courts and a postal service, to replace the British Mandate structures they sought to dismantle. The British, meanwhile, imposed even harsher measures to try to quash the revolt. The AHC and all Palestinian political parties were outlawed, political and community leaders were arrested, and a number of high-profile public figures exiled.

The military aspects of counterinsurgency intensified, and British tanks, airplanes, and heavy artillery were deployed throughout Palestine. The British also meted out collective punishment: thousands of Palestinians were relegated to “detention camps”; residential quarters were destroyed; schools were closed; villages were collectively fined and forced to billet British troops and police. 

Zionist military institutions took advantage of the situation to build up their capacities with British support. By early 1939, members of the Jewish Settlement Police (about 14,000) were subsidized, uniformed, and armed by the British government as a thinly veiled front for the Haganah, and so-called Special Night Squads comprising Jewish and British members launched “special operations” against Palestinian villages.

The British dispatched another commission of inquiry, which concluded in November 1938 that partition was not practicable.  At the same time, however, the British launched an all-out offensive in 1939 more Palestinians were killed, more were executed (by hanging), and nearly twice as many were detained than in 1938. 

Such brutality placed immense pressure on the rebels, exacerbating rifts between the political leadership of the AHC exiled in Damascus and local leadership on the ground, between rebel bands and village populations that were expected to support and supply them, and ultimately between Palestinians who remained committed to the revolt and those willing to reach a compromise with the British.

In May 1939, the British government published a new White Paper that proposed the following: Britain’s obligations to the Jewish national home had been substantially fulfilled; indefinite mass Jewish immigration to and land acquisition in Palestine would contradict Britain’s obligations to the Palestinians; within the next five years, no more than 75,000 Jews would be allowed into the country, after which Jewish immigration would be subject to “Arab acquiescence”; land transfers would be permitted in certain areas, but restricted and prohibited in others, to protect Palestinians from landlessness; and an independent unitary state would be established after ten years, conditional on favorable Palestinian-Jewish relations.

The combined impact of Britain’s military and diplomatic efforts brought the rebellion to an end in the late summer of 1939. Over the revolt’s three years, some 5,000 Palestinians had been killed and nearly 15,000 wounded.


Further Reading


Israel Daily Picture - British Mandate's 1938 Annual Report Details the Arab Revolt

Israel Daily Picture - The British Turn Their Attention to Jewish Fighters

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