This week’s history chronicle begins on a somber note.
On Nov. 9, 1938, German Nazis began a reign of terror over Jews in Germany and Austria, initiating “Kristallnacht,” translated to “Night of Broken Glass,” in which storm troopers vandalized or destroyed thousands of Jewish establishments.
Kristallnacht represented a drastic upturn in the antiJewish rhetoric perpetuated by Adolf Hitler, who had become Germany’s chancellor in 1933. The Nazis used the murder of a German diplomat in Paris, by a 17-year-old Jewish boy from Poland, as reason to devastate the entire population. For the diplomat’s death, the German government charged the Jewish people the equiva- lent of $400 million in 1938 dollars, and as repayment seized their property and withheld insurance money owed them.
The Holocaust, in which an estimated 6 million European Jews died at the hands of Germany’s Nazis, followed in the years after.
On a lighter, more positively educational note, the TV show “Sesame Street” debuted almost 50 years ago — on Nov. 10, 1969.
A now-world renowned staple of educational television, “Sesame Street” pioneered the type of children’s programming that still rules many shows today. It had a memorable theme song, emphasized the value of diversity and taught the rudiments of reading and count- ing to probably millions of children. It was the brainchild of Joan Ganz Cooney, a genius in her own right, who sought to develop a better way to prepare underprivileged 3- to 5-year-olds for kindergarten.
Cooney likely had no reason to expect the show would have the kind of impact it has over the decades. “Sesame Street” still runs on PBS and HBO, with first-run episodes airing on the latter.
More than 100 years earlier, another woman best known for her work in a similarly youth-focused genre — Louisa May Alcott — published her first story.
On Nov. 11, 1852, Alcott, who would go on to write the classic book “Little Women,” published her story “The Rival Painters: A Story of Rome” in the Saturday Evening Gazette. This successful publication would kick off a couple decades-long career in which she made a living for her family by selling somewhat melodramatic tales.
Then, starting in 1862, she served as a nurse for Union troops in the Civil War, and from her experiences there she published a book called “Hospital Sketches” (1863), which established her reputation as a literary author. A publisher in search of a bestseller asked her to write about children, and 1868’s “Little Women” was the result. She went on to write more books and stories for both children and adults, and some of her bibliography is still read today.
In other literary history, “Moby-Dick,” which is considered one of the quote-unquote great American novels, was published on Nov. 14, 1851, to lukewarm reception. Its writer, the New York Citybred Herman Melville, was at the time already experiencing his career’s decline.
Melville had found it difficult to replicate the surprise success of his first novel, the seafaringthemed “Typee,” which he published in 1846. The four novels in between it and “Moby- Dick” were met with underwhelming sales and mixed reviews. “Moby- Dick” was no exception.
Because he made so little from his writing, Melville eventually moved to New York to serve as a customs inspector, where he worked almost until his death in 1891. Some 30 years later, the literary community began to recognize him as a major figure, and that’s largely how he’s seen today.
Almost 60 years ago, the king himself made his film debut. The film “Love Me Tender,” which starred rising singer Elvis Presley, premiered on Nov. 15, 1956.
Overall, the film was a success for Presley, though his films would be criticized for much of his career as too formulaic and uninspired. Regardless, they helped solidify his pop culture legacy.