Popular Hatreds and the Spread of Kristallnacht Violence: Evidence from Children’s Stories

Daniel Solomon, Georgetown University
Robert Braun, University of California, Berkeley
Elena Amaya, University of California, Berkeley

Existing research on pogroms tends to emphasize the importance of political and economic processes, downplaying the independent influence of ideational factors such popular hatreds and fears. This paper aims to draw more attention to the role that popular animosity plays by studying the spread of violence against synagogues during the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, a foundational case of an elite-driven pogrom. Out of dissatisfaction with existing measures of ethnic fears and hatreds we draw on folklore data to develop a new dataset that captures geographical variation in antisemitism by tracing Jewish bogeymen in children’s tales. After pairing this data with fine-grained information on synagogue attacks in Germany during Kristallnacht, also known as the Novemberpogrom, our analysis shows that violence was more widespread in counties were Jewish bogeymen featured prominently in local oral traditions. In addition to economic and political threats, research about pogroms should explore the ideational underpinnings of xenophobic violence.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 6. Religion, Power, and Culture in European History