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René Juvet, a Swiss merchant, was visiting friends in the countryside during the events of Kristallnacht. The next morning he drove to the town of Bayreuth, where he saw people watching as houses burned to the ground. At one point, he got out of his car to take a closer look at a crowd gathered in front of a warehouse where dozens of Jews were being held. 

I was reluctant to add myself to the assembled crowd but I had to see with my own eyes what was happening there. Through the great windows you could see perhaps fifty people in a bleak, empty hall. Most of them stood against the wall, staring gloomily, a few walked restlessly about, others were sitting—in spite of the severe cold—on the bare floor. Almost all of them, incidentally, were inadequately dressed; some only had thrown on a topcoat over their nightclothes. The SA people who had picked them up during the night had apparently not allowed them time to put on more clothing. Compared to what happened later, this was only a small beginning. 

At the end of his description of Kristallnacht, Juvet writes:

To the credit of my [non-Jewish German colleagues] I can report that they—with the exception of Neder, who took part in the operation in his role as an SA Führer—disapproved of the excesses. Some more, others less. Waldmeyer said nothing, but he was very thoughtful in ensuing days; Hoffmann, who could almost count himself as one of the old guard, made no attempt to conceal his horror from me. I also heard that the workers were outraged. . . .

A little while after this I met our Nuremberg representative, a harmless and industrious person. He was a member of the SA but was, by chance, kept away from home that evening. . . .

“I am happy I was not in Nuremberg that evening, it certainly would have rubbed me the wrong way,” said our representative.

I asked him whether he would have taken part if he had been there. “Of course,” he said, “orders are orders.”

His words clarified a whole lot of things for me.1


  • 1 : René Juvet, “Kristallnacht,” in Travels in the Reich, 1933–1945: Foreign Authors Report from Germany, ed. Oliver Lubrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 176–78.

La Perspectiva de un Visitante Sobre La Noche de los Cristales Rotos

René Juvet, un comerciante suizo, estaba visitando a un amigo en el campo durante los eventos de La Noche de los Cristales Rotos. A la mañana siguiente, condujo a la ciudad de Bayreuth, donde un grupo de personas observaba mientras ardían las casas. En un punto, se bajó de su automóvil para observar más de cerca a la multitud reunida frente a una bodega donde estaban retenidos docenas de judíos.

No quería sumarme a la multitud reunida, pero tenía que ver con mis propios ojos lo que estaba sucediendo allí. A través de los ventanales se podían ver unas cincuenta personas en un salón lúgubre y vacío. La mayoría de ellas recostadas contra la pared, con la mirada fija y cabizbaja, unas pocas caminaban inquietas de un lado para otro, otras estaban sentadas en el piso, a pesar del intenso frío. La mayoría de las personas, por cierto, estaban vestidas de manera inadecuada, algunas solo tenían un abrigo sobre la ropa de dormir. Por lo visto, la gente de las SA que había recogido a estas personas durante la noche, no les dio tiempo de ponerse más ropa. Esto fue solo el comienzo, en comparación con lo que pasó después.

Al final de la descripción de La Noche de los Cristales Rotos, Juvet escribe:

En defensa de mis [colegas alemanes no judíos] puedo decir que ellos, a excepción de Neder, quien participó en la operación como SA Führer, desaprobaban los excesos. Unos más que otros. Waldmeyer no decía nada, pero estuvo muy pensativo los días siguientes; Hoffmann, quien podría contarse casi como uno de la vieja guardia, no intentó ocultarme el horror que sentía. También supe que los trabajadores estaban indignados…

Poco después de esto, me reuní con nuestro representante de Nuremberg, una persona inofensiva y diligente. Era miembro de las SA, pero dio la casualidad de que estuvo lejos de casa esa noche…

“Me alegra no haber estado en Nuremberg esa noche, con seguridad eso me hubiera hecho enojar”, dijo.

Le pregunté que si de haber estado allí en ese momento, hubiera participado. “Por supuesto”, dijo, “órdenes son órdenes”.

Sus palabras me aclararon un montón de cosas.1


  • 1 : René Juvet, “Kristallnacht” en Travels in the Reich, 1933–1945: Foreign Authors Report from Germany, ed. Oliver Lubrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 176-78..

Connection Questions

  1. What words and phrases do René Juvet and his acquaintances use to describe Kristallnacht? What attitudes does their language convey?
  2. An SA member tells Juvet that even though he did not like the violence on Kristallnacht, he would have participated if called upon to do so, because “orders are orders.” What do you think Juvet means by writing, “His words clarified a whole lot of things for me”? What did the SA man’s words clarify for Juvet? What do the SA man’s words suggest to you? How might they help us understand why some people chose to participate?
  3. Why might people participate in violence even if they don’t fully support its goals?

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