Third Reich Day by Day: November 1938

Though the early years of World War II saw a string of German military triumphs, 1938 was probably the most successful year for Adolf Hitler. The removal of Blomberg and Fritsch ensured the total loyalty of the army, which de facto became an unthinking tool of Hitler’s will. On the international front the union of Austria and the Sudetenland with the Third Reich was a stunning coup, and one achieved without firing a shot. At home Hitler was viewed as a genius, a leader who could do no wrong and who had kept his promise to bring ethnic Germans back into the Reich.

1 November

Spain, German aid

The last commander of the Legion, Generalmajor Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, has served as Chief of Staff to both Sperrle and Volkmann. He now takes over the command of the unit and retains it throughout the remaining months of the Spanish Civil War. Though many of the aircraft are in a poor state of repair, many pilots have gained valuable combat experience. Richthofen would lead the Condor Legion back on its triumphant return to Germany in 1939.

9 November

Germany, Anti-Semitism

Ernst von Rath was a young diplomat holding a secretarial position in the German Embassy in Paris. A Jew named Herschel Grynszpan had the idea of assassinating the German Ambassador, Count Johannes von Welczek. Grynszpan went to the embassy and asked the receptionist for an interview with the ambassador. The receptionist inquired as to the nature of his business, to which he gave no reply and began to act suspiciously. The receptionist rang for assistance from the inner office. Ernst von Rath answered the call and proceeded to the entrance hall to assist the receptionist. Grynszpan, thinking Ernst von Rath was the ambassador, pulled out a revolver and shot at him six times. Only three of the rounds found their mark, one hitting him in the foot, another in the shoulder and the third in the stomach. He was rushed to hospital, but died later.

In response, Heydrich organizes “Crystal Night”, a pogrom against the Jews. More than 20,000 Jews are imprisoned, 74 killed, decrees eliminate Jews from the economy and demand a collective fine of 12,500 million Marks to pay for the destruction caused by the Nazi mob. The expulsion of all Jews from schools follows. Roosevelt, US president, recalls his ambassador.