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Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
9 months ago

Kristallnacht or The Night Of Broken Glass was the moment of stark realisation for Germany’s 750,000 Jews in November of 1938 that their daily lives would never be, could never be the same.

That particular night was not the setting of things in motion, however, by Goering, Goebbels and co. They had already been in power five years by then. What Kristallnacht represented was a psychological tipping point. By September 1939, nearly, I believe, half a million of Germany’s Jews had managed to acquire visas to get out of Germany and to another country. A monumental effort by many ordinary foreigners, many low-level diplomats, had enabled passage for hundreds of thousands in the precious nine months ahead of the outbreak of war. Such was the desperation, a Jewish community sprouted up in Shanghai as a result. That may well have been down to the huge efforts of one or two officials at the Chinese embassy in Berlin.

The event that gave the Nazis their excuse for going on the rampage, destroying shops, synagogues, looting Jewish-owned homes and businesses (as well as the excuse for the immediate rounding up of tens of thousands of Jewish men and placing them in camps all around Germany – an experience of which many would later simply not talk about), was a seventeen-year-old Jewish boy’s gunning down of a German embassy diplomat in Paris, who was fatally wounded. The young boy had grown increasingly vexed about the situation of his family who were trapped in no-man’s-land between Germany and Poland in freezing conditions.
If I recall my history correctly, Germany had enacted legislation that denied residency rights (perhaps stripping some of their German citizenship) to Jews born in Poland. So thirty thousand Jews were trapped at Germany’s border with Poland, in peacetime. Poland refused their passage back in, at least they halted their progress. I can’t recall from once reading about it what actually happened to them. Perhaps Poland graciously accepted them straight after Kristallnacht.

What happened to the seventeen-year-old boy? I can’t tell you either. Perhaps he died in prison. In Germany? In France? I suspect few people know of the fate of the nineteen-year-old, Gavrilo Princip, who, by assassinating the heir to the Austria-Hungarian empire, sparked WW1. The single sentence in a big history book that reveals such information is in itself representative of the tiny footnotes to history even the small but notable players end up being (including the heroics of the low-level diplomats). It’s as if these minor individuals, by their crimes or crimes passionel or by their rash and violent actions, they have unwittingly set in train what was a fait accompli. All along, plans had been laid by the iniquitous dictatorship. Sometimes those plans had merely been hiding in plain sight. The dictator must be smiling at the sheepishness of the people. All the time the dictator waits for his opportunity to strike. Humanity be damned!

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is for the Ukrainians also their Kristallnacht moment: in terms of the psychological tipping point. The war has been proven to disorient them and drive them out. Who will drive the attackers away? What’s it going to take? Things will never be the same.

How long do people go on deceiving themselves by what they see hiding in plain sight? Our movers and shakers in their blown-apart think tanks and what not have not sensed the ill-winds. They need to read a bit of history from the ordinary punter’s point of view.

Moreover, the Russian psyche is so different to the European one. Into the Russian hinterlands, their vast hinterlands, and it’s like stepping back into time. Brutality never went away, you know.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago

Thank you for your excellent, thoughtful and informed comment. It makes a change from the Putin fan club or the ‘its all our fault’ brigades (both Left and Right) who so often noisily express their views on this forum.

Adriana L
Adriana L
9 months ago

Thank you indeed. I grew up in a country with the Russian boot on its neck. People in West cannot comprehend Russia, its atavistic brutality and traumatic history. (It is a good thing as it means they do not have first hand experience of them. Until they have to face Russia…) These things do not evaporate upon encounter of the economic trappings of the West. The future will be dark, the best chance we have is to strive for as much clarity as we can. Easier said than done.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
9 months ago
Reply to  Adriana L

I was a Russian & Soviet Studies student in the 80s; recognising the ‘soviet’ style directives during covid was helpful and gave me a deju vu experience. The fate of The p***y Riot were a warning for me, of the slip back into a dictatorship; we mused over whether the Russian people actually liked dictatorships, not to mention dictators/strong leading men. I returned in 2016 (I was advised not to revisit Ukraine), and with my ‘flexible’ visa, travelled all over: West to East & the shores of Lake Baikal, Yakutsk, Vladivostok; such freedom that may not come again for years.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Adriana L

So our economic trappings did not do the trick? Not a good sign.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
9 months ago

The best book I have read on the lead up to the catastrophe for Jews in Germany is Defying Hitler. Highly recommended for how the poison seeps in to society.

Having said that I do not see this brutal Putin aggression in the same light; it is a naked strategic move to create facts on the ground. It is not an attempt to label people as subhuman so that you can do what you like with them.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

Is Vlad trying to impress his people with his accomplishments? And thereby pull them aboard his midnight train to the golden age Russian rule?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
9 months ago

Excellent thanks – and is it true that 70% of Russians support the war………….

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
8 months ago

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_Russia
I agree, looks like the war is right on cue.
Real Politic never disappeared, its just went into hiding for a while.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

Not a good sign.

Kat Kazak
Kat Kazak
9 months ago

The Day of the Oprichnik, yes.
I’m constantly reminded of Novodvorskaya, how the cooky old lady protested the war in Chechnya, how she condemned the war in Georgia, how in 2014 she recorded a video addressed to the newly formed LNR and DNR and told them that Putin will use them and their suffering to invade Ukraine and raze it. And everyone in my generation of millennials thought she was a bit insane. That she was exaggerating. When she said that Putin is a fascist who will see no rhyme, no reason and will not care about the economy, won’t care about the oligarchs’ money, and definitely won’t care about human lives, we thought “well, surely not the economy? Surely he at least cares about the oligarchs’ money?”
She died 8 years ago, but today everything she said is coming true.
I was a naive millennial, the generation whose dreams were crushed. I was a citizen of the world, I lived in the US, studied in France and Japan, married a Brit and moved to the UK, but my heart was always in Moscow. And I feel like it’s just been ripped out.

Last edited 9 months ago by Kat Kazak
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
9 months ago
Reply to  Kat Kazak

God bless you Kat.

N T
N T
9 months ago

Dang.
I love Unherd.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  N T

Ditto. There’s no place on earth like UnHerd. I didn’t fully realize it until I read Ben’s article, above, by the light of the moon.

Gary Baxter
Gary Baxter
9 months ago

The Russian nation and the Chinese nation seem to be cursed, forever haunted by the ghosts of Ivan the Terrible and Qinshihuangdi. These ghosts, moreover, will cast their long shadows in other parts of the world, thanks to autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Gary Baxter

Actually, Gary . . . NO thanks to Vlad and Xi.

René Descartes
René Descartes
9 months ago

Good article Ben. The vile excuse for a human being Putin has wound the clock of the great Russian civilisation all the way back from the golden era you describe to Orwell’s vision of 1984. In Putin’s Newspeak special operation means annihilation, denazification means genocide, humanitarian corridor means publicity stunt and calling a war a war means 15 years behind bars. What a catastrophe for the civilised world.

Last edited 9 months ago by René Descartes
LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

Not a good sign.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
8 months ago

What civilised world?

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
9 months ago

Started to read The Day of the Oprichnik. Manically prescient. Watched short TV item as reporter tries to show pix of Kyiv destruction to Russian 50somethings- they refused. Brought up in a country that’s never been free. Serfdom was stopped? Not really.

James Chater
James Chater
9 months ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Guess you’ve read James Meek’s The People’s Act of Love? For a look back to Revolution days portraying the gruelling hardness, so set in.

David Lewis
David Lewis
9 months ago

What’s the best word to describe the western reaction to the invasion of Ukraine? Probably ‘outrage’. How could he? So barbaric! And it’s the settled and civilised 21st century for goodness’ sake.
Let us not forget that quite recently, after a tiny band of terrorists killed 3,000 people in New York, in the greatest over-reaction in history, the rulers of the USA spun a globe to decide which country would bear the brunt of its revenge, and picked……… Iraq. A story was fabricated regarding WMD, allies were recruited, and Iraq was ruthlessly invaded, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Of WMD there was no sign! Where was our outrage then?
Putin and his regime have been talking for decades about their growing sense of vulnerability as the very same powers that committed the outrage in Iraq pressed in on their borders. Surely, at the very least, we need to try to understand their point?

René Descartes
René Descartes
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lewis

The Iraq war was a vile disgrace. Where was our outrage then? In the largest outpouring of public anger on the streets of London that I can remember. But we’re not talking about Iraq and this whataboutery is irrelevant.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
9 months ago

A vile disgrace? To remove a dictator who had invaded his neighbours, killed a million of his own people? That the endgame was so little thought about was indeed appalling, but to remove that unpleasant murdering thug was no disgrace

Christine Thomas
Christine Thomas
9 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Never understood argument about WMDs – if we didn’t know where they were, how the hell was it thought safe to bomb the country?
As if removing 1 man at the cost of killing and wrecking lives of a thousands of Innocents would do anything other than wreak havoc on all participants, yes, including ourselves.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
9 months ago

Combatants generally do not know where their opponents missiles are, but rely on detection systems to spot them being launched

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

The “removing one man” question doesn’t quite apply here, as, in our present standoff, removing one particular man could make quite a big difference in the outcome.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Thanks, JR, for bringing that accomplishment out. So there was some justification for our yankee practice run in preparation for the big one in Ukraine.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

Sad to say this but maybe our yank excursion into Iraq was a warmup for whatever’s coming. Trouble ahead. Not a good sign.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lewis

I think it was unfinished business from the First Gulf War of 1991. Iraq had invaded Kuwait. The Americans, as with Berlin in 1944/45, wanted to go all the way to Baghdad. Iraq was deemed a rogue state and only unconditional surrender would do. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan was the country that America had to deal with. In the climate of fear following 9/11, the Americans feared a rogue outfit bringing into America some kind of WMD. A massive truck bomb had gone off under the WTC in 1993, in the basement, forcing the evacuation of the entire towers due to smoke. Eight years later, planes were crashed into the towers. After that, what destructive force would have come after that? No WMD was found in Iraq post-invasion of 2003. Sanctions had taken their toll, perhaps. But do not forget Halabjah in 1988, when, in the far north of Iraq, Saddam’s regime gassed to death more than five thousand townsfolk in the town of Halabjah.

If you scorn American expressions of vulnerability (‘tiny band of terrorists’, greatest over-reaction in history’), following 9/11, and 3,000 deaths, then surely you’d be ripe to scorn the ‘growing sense of vulnerability’ of ‘Putin and his regime’? After all, Ukraine has zero WMD, nor has it regained lost territories that had been sovereign to it until 2014, and nor has Russia suffered a single terrorist attack out of the blue that felled 3,000 of its citizens. Moreover, Ukraine is a democracy which Russia has inexplicably invaded. Russia has not suffered the fear America was experiencing in 2001/2 when America was asking itself why so many people hate it. Russia, at least the regime, seems to thrive on a perception that people hate it.

David Lewis
David Lewis
9 months ago

Dustshoe, Fair points. Thank you.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
9 months ago

Thanks for pointing out the bleedin’ obvious to those who like to be devils advocates.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

Your synopsis in the first paragraph above is the best explanation this American has seen.Thanks, Dusty, for providing it.
We yanks need a little confidence now, before we enter into the . . . whatever has to be done, which at the moment seems to be convincing the Poles to turn loose those MIG jet fighters so that Ukrainian pilots can defend their air space.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lewis

Very well said. Reading from the beginning, this is the first comment I’ve seen that is right on the money, unlike those ponderous meditations upon the Russian psyche which boil down to, as ever, TJ’s all Russia’s fault. It’s not.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
9 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Yeah it wasn’t all Hitler’s fault either. No doubt you’ll point that out too?

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

TJ?

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
8 months ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

Yeah, that confused me too, I also have no idea to whom or what TJ refers.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lewis

Actually Afghanistan and the Taliban was the target for the Americans retaliation, seeing as they were sheltering those responsible for the attack you mentioned. Granted that conflict descended into a 20 quagmire but let’s not try and rewrite history to try and distract from Putins actions today

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Thanks for pointing that out, Billy Bob. We need to keep our sights on the right target.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lewis

Another apologist. The 9/11 outrage was shocking. What is more, it really happened. As it was planned by terrorists being shielded by the Taliban, and that regime was clearly far from democratic, or in any way beneficial for the inhabitants, it was dislodged, and easily, because of the support of so many.
I think the success went to the heads of Bush and others, who felt the same change could be made in Iraq, another deeply unhappy country. I know Iraqis who welcomed it, and there were a large number who had fled from Saddam’s terror.
OK, nothing went well after that in either country, surely tragic lost opportunities about which reams and reams could be written, but they were nothing like Ukraine, the problems of which were comparatively minor, and which had real hope of becoming what is rare in this world; a prosperous democracy.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

True dat. The Ukrainians do not deserve what is being heaped upon them. They need a little help from me friends.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lewis

Don’t go there.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lewis

We haven’t forgotten, but it makes no difference to the extent of Putin’s crime.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
9 months ago

How difficult it must be to accept that the “tweeting and Facebooking” Millennials were actually no different to any other youthful generation before them. Even more difficult to be both mawkish and self-aggrandising at the same time. The author manages it well as he, apparently, struggles to wake up, smell the coffee, and grow up. Horror of horrors! Not everything is shiny, ideal, and bright-eyed.

Some people are bad, and they have to be killed by men with guns. Sorry, Ben, but there’s really nothing new under the sun. Enjoy the rest of your life.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

I think Ben did an admirable thing in his report above. Definitely a good read, and quite timely. And the angst that it generates definitely “rhymes”, as the saying goes, with history, the history of kristallnacht.

Robert Routledge
Robert Routledge
9 months ago

There is no doubt ‘Him’ has f#cked up everyone’s lives, for the Ukrainians (and the Russians too) its costing them thier lives and freedom for us in the West alot of money so I guess we’re the lucky ones! However what is scary is there doesn’t seem an end game so nobody really knows what’s going to happen next(even ‘Him’ probably too) so it may cost alot more than our standard of living worrying times

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

The Allies need to define the “end game” and execute it.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
9 months ago

The Tsar was overthrown after losing two wars, the Russo-Japanese War of 1906, and World War I. Autocrats can’t afford significant embarrassments like losing wars. Putin will double down on his war in Ukraine, but he is already having a hard time getting his army to fight well, at least in the North.

Russian military doctrine is to flatten cities with artillery before taking them. That’s easier to do in Syria or Chechnya, where Russians have no personal connections. In Ukraine, Russians, including Army officers, have lots of relatives and friends, Ukrainians who will be killed when their cities are flattened. These officers may refuse orders to commit war crimes against people they know.

The turning point in the Russian Revolution against the Tsar came when the Tsar ordered machine guns be used against protesters. The first time this happened, the soldiers fired on the crowd. The second time, the soldiers shot the officers who gave the orders and joined the protesters. Putin’s Ukraine War may bring such a turning point.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

This American likes that ending. May it happen that way, when the ruskie commandeers start asking themselves . . . why the hell am I doing this?

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
9 months ago

Had the west been as open and generous with Russia as it’s been with China, then Russia would not have feared NATO expansion.

René Descartes
René Descartes
9 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Russia never feared NATO expansion, but Putin feared being exposed as a pathetic loser and a historical nonentity. Which is why we should now truly fear his finger on the nuclear button.

George Knight
George Knight
9 months ago

There are nuclear buttons and nuclear buttons. A key objective of Putin’s rebuilding of his military was to have powerful assets. One of these is battlefield nuclear missiles. These are designed to take out a whole battle group on land or a ship at sea, for example. The older missiles are designed to take out a capital city, etc. I suspect what we should really fear is his finger on the battlefield nuclear button. He might try to get away with that by claiming it was an “accident”.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
9 months ago
Reply to  George Knight

If it happened, he would blame it on Ukrainian ‘nazis’.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

True dat.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  George Knight

Oh, God forbid!

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

Oh, God forbid!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
9 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Gawd when do you get to the point that He’s a bampot, possibly evil? After he launches the nukes?
Will you still be defending him, if you survive alongside the cockroaches?

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Vlad the Mad is evil as any dictator that the world has ever seen. But nobody knew it until about three weeks ago.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Nice thought, but we’ll never know. Hindsight is so clear.

wjhocter.plc
wjhocter.plc
9 months ago

Sad but well written. Falling in and out of love, whether with a person or a country tends to obscure clarity of thought. I think that when historians look back on the “unipolar moment” they’ll find it remarkable how little consideration we gave to Russian sensitivities (enlarging NATO, Bosnia, Kosovo) while simultaneously overindulging the Chinese, with great detriment arising from both.

Although I’m a Republican, I think the George W. Bush Administration comes in for special criticism here. The presence of Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates in positions of foreign policy and national security policy authority brought doctoral level Russia expertise to the fore yet we continued to get Russia so wrong. Here are government did no better than it did with the contemporaneous financial crisis, despite having a Harvard MBA in the White House, the former head of Goldman at Treasury, and the foremost authority on the Great Depression heading up the Fed. It’s enough to make one wonder about the value we place on experts.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  wjhocter.plc

Maybe we’ll do better with a good ole boy from Delaware.

Jon Guy
Jon Guy
9 months ago

Great insights, Ben — thanks.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Jon Guy

Yes.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
9 months ago

Yes, “The Day of the Oprichnik” WAS prescient.
The image of the tiny sterlets polluting one’s bloodstream was a clever reference to the old Soviet TV series, “17 Moments of Spring,” whose spy/hero just happened to be named “Von Stierlitz.” It seems the security services will always rule Russia.
And now seem intent on leading Russia to its final destruction.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Good riddance. But certainly there are still some decent people in Russia. Where’s Gorbachev when you need him?

Tony Lee
Tony Lee
9 months ago

Be thankful you were there when you were, Ben (loved ‘This is London’). I worked in Bulgaria in the 80’s and no one might have doubted the underlying corruption or sense of inherent evil, in society there then. The three kinds of ‘truth’: political truth (known to be a lie), public truth (almost certainly a lie) and the truth told at home, but only if you trusted those you lived with. We’ve never accepted that we in the West, don’t or can’t comprehend such a mentality. The danger to Putin, must come from within and of course, he knows that; hence the ramped up personal security and heightened paranoia concerning visitors. Not much to smile about here, but it does give cause for a rueful grin to listen to the Left (at large) decrying that more should have been done to stop Putin earlier. When in truth, any pre-emptive strike on Putin’s Russia would have been labelled as an uncalled for act of aggression akin to warmongering. Easy to be wise after the event. As I heard it said once, when the money runs out, no one will miss the Russians. Well, not Putin;’s Russians at least.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Tony Lee

I and Joe Biden are hoping Putin runs out of money. I hope Xi doesn’t prolong the inevitable bankruptcy.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
8 months ago

I’d be interested in an article called ‘The West we have lost’. Things like inalienable rights to bodily integrity, freedom of movement, free speech, free uncensored press, the right to dissent etc. etc. All arbitrarily suspended over the past 2 yrs.
The future is not looking much better either.
Our totalitarian masters have now banned RT – a move similar to the book burning episodes in 1930s Germany. They treat us as underage children incapable of moral judgements and arriving at our own conclusions.
Why give people the vote when you consider them incapable of independent judgement?

Indeed we do need an article on ‘The West we have lost’

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

RT?

Al M
Al M
8 months ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

Russia Today

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
9 months ago

Thank you for a superb insight.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

Yes.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
9 months ago

Wow a brilliant and self aware account. Thanks.
And I’ll look up the book too.

James B
James B
9 months ago

A truly excellent piece which reminds me of the Russia I knew, between 1994-1996. The Antichrist must be stopped.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  James B

Amen! Stop the Beast.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
9 months ago

There are people who don’t believe in the Devil.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

The Bible tells us so. Read the last book therein.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
8 months ago
Reply to  LCarey Rowland

There is a lot that the Bible tells us about human nature and where following its lusts will lead. The world can continue its descent into evolutionary scientism or cry ‘why didn’t Someone tell me’. Einstein was on to something.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago

Not a good sign.

Jesse Porter
Jesse Porter
8 months ago

What a dystopian picture of a thrashing, dying bear. After stuffing itself with Marx’s stupid fantasies and murdering or imprisoning its best and brightest and slathering continents with blood, it finally starved itself to death. Yet it churns out new tyrants to stomp on itself and its neighbors.

James Chater
James Chater
9 months ago

Great piece.
And all those ‘post-liberals’ like the ‘jeremiah’ John Gray rub their hands together and toast the return of ‘normality’?
In addition to the ‘stupefying cliche’*: Putin as another ‘Tsar’, another ‘stupefying cliche’ would be the abscence of established liberal middle classes.
*(Gray,’22)

Last edited 9 months ago by James Chater
LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
8 months ago
Reply to  James Chater

Shades of gray? do not permit comprehension here.