Sunday, November 09, 2008

This date in history: Kristallnacht


A massive, coordinated attack on Jews throughout the German Reich on the night of November 9, 1938, into the next day, has come to be known as Kristallnacht or The Night of Broken Glass.

The attack came after Herschel Grynszpan, a 17 year old Jew living in Paris, shot and killed a member of the German Embassy staff there in retaliation for the poor treatment his father and his family suffered at the hands of the Nazis in Germany.

On October 27, Grynszpan's family and over 15,000 other Jews, originally from Poland, had been expelled from Germany without any warning. They were forcibly transported by train in boxcars then dumped at the Polish border.

For Adolf Hitler and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, the shooting in Paris provided an opportunity to incite Germans to "rise in bloody vengeance against the Jews."

Read orders to the Gestapo regarding Kristallnacht

On November 9, mob violence broke out as the regular German police stood by and crowds of spectators watched. Nazi storm troopers along with members of the SS and Hitler Youth beat and murdered Jews, broke into and wrecked Jewish homes, and brutalized Jewish women and children.

All over Germany, Austria and other Nazi controlled areas, Jewish shops and department stores had their windows smashed and contents destroyed. Synagogues were especially targeted for vandalism, including desecration of sacred Torah scrolls. Hundreds of synagogues were systematically burned while local fire departments stood by or simply prevented the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings.

About 25,000 Jewish men were rounded up and later sent to concentration camps where they were often brutalized by SS guards and in some cases randomly chosen to be beaten to death.

The reaction outside Germany to Kristallnacht was shock and outrage, creating a storm of negative publicity in newspapers and among radio commentators that served to isolate Hitler's Germany from the civilized nations and weaken any pro-Nazi sentiments in those countries. Shortly after Kristallnacht, the United States recalled its ambassador permanently.

In Germany, on November 12, top Nazis, including Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels, held a meeting concerning the economic impact of the damage and to discuss further measures to be taken against the Jews. SS leader Reinhard Heydrich reported 7500 businesses destroyed, 267 synagogues burned (with 177 totally destroyed) and 91 Jews killed.

Heydrich requested new decrees barring Jews from any contact with Germans by excluding them from public transportation, schools, even hospitals, essentially forcing them into ghettos or out of the country. Goebbels said the Jews would be made to clean out the debris from burned out synagogues which would then be turned into parking lots.

At this meeting it was decided to eliminate Jews entirely from economic life in the Reich by transferring all Jewish property and enterprises to 'Aryans,' with minor compensation given to the Jews in the form of bonds.

Regarding the economic impact of the damage from Kristallnacht and the resulting massive insurance claims, Hermann Göring stated the Jews themselves would be billed for the damage and that any insurance money due to them would be confiscated by the State.

"I shall close the meeting with these words," said Göring, "German Jewry shall, as punishment for their abominable crimes, et cetera, have to make a contribution for one billion marks. That will work. The swine won't commit another murder. Incidentally, I would like to say that I would not like to be a Jew in Germany."

Copyright © 1996 The History Place, All Rights Reserve

The pogroms marked an intensification of Nazi anti-Jewish policy that would culminate in the Holocaust—the systematic, state-sponsored murder of Jews.

The word ‘Jews’ is scrawled on the exterior wall of the destroyed synagogue in Buehl. The synagogue was burned during Kristallnacht. The Hebrew inscription over the entrance reads: ‘I shall make for them a holy place.’ Buehl, Germany. Circa November 1938.USHMM #98603, courtesy of Stadt Buehl Stadtgeschichtliches Institut

A man surveys the damage to the Lichtenstein leather goods store after the Kristallnacht pogrom. Berlin, Germany. November 10, 1938.USHMM #73909, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park

The faces of evil


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At November 09, 2008 3:27 PM, Blogger Alipurr said...

I pray we never forget, mother. Thank you for reminding us. Jews are God's chosen people, and Israel is their homeland. I thank God for our Jewish heritage.

At November 11, 2008 9:10 AM, Blogger MrsGreenThumb said...

Just reading about that awful night makes the hair on my arms stand up. How can people act like that? I cannot understand the animosity towards Jews. One of the smallest minorities, Jews today number about 14 million.
Catholics - 1 Billion
Sunni Muslims - 940 Million
Shia Muslims - 120 Million
Hindus - 900 Million
Buddhists - 376 Million
Orthodox Christians - 240 Million
Shinto - 106 Million
Lutherans - 66 Millions
Sikhs - 23 Million

These facts were on a recent television show called "In God's Name".

Isn't the attention given to Jews hugely out of proportion to their numbers? I hope people never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust. We should all take our children to visit Holocaust memorials for the millions of people who were slaughtered by the Nazis, so the next generation will also remember.


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