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Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass
 Kristallnacht: Night of Broken Glass

Germans pass by a Jewish shop destroyed by Nazis in Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass

Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass

  

Kristallnacht is considered by many historians to mark the start of Hitler's war against the Jews: The Holocaust.

 

Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a night of bloody attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Nazi-ruled Austria and the Sudetenland, on November 9 and 10, 1938.

Jewish homes and businesses were ransacked, as as Nazi Sturmabteilung stormtroopers and civilian Nazi supporters attacked shops, towns and villages, destroying Jewish-owned buildings with sledgehammers and leaving the streets covered in pieces of smashed window glass; the origin of the name "Night of Broken Glass." Ninety-one Jews were killed, and 30,000 Jewish men were taken to concentration camps, where they were tortured for months, with over 1,000 of them dying. Between 1,000 and 2,000 synagogues were attacked, and 267 set on fire. Almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, and Jewish cemeteries and schools were vandalized.

Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world. The Times of London wrote at the time: "No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenceless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday."

The event that gave the Nazis an excuse to launch the attacks, was the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a German-born Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan, in Paris, France. Grynszpan's father's shop in Hanover had been confiscated by the Nazis a few days earlier, and his family deported to Poland. The younger Grynszpan had intended to assassinate the German ambassador to France in retaliation, but settled on the Third Secretary, von Rath, instead. This rash act gave Hitler's Chief of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, the perfect rationalle for inciting more hatred and violence against the Jews in Germany.

On November 11, the Nazi Minister of the Interior issued regulations prohibiting Jews' possession of weapons. This law prohibited Jews from "acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons. Those now possessing weapons and ammunition are at once to turn them over to the local police authority." This form of gun control ensured that Jews could not effectively fight back as the Nazis planned more attacks on the Jewish community.

The Kristallnacht attacks was followed by increased economic and political persecution of Jews in Germany. Kristallnact and is seen by many historians as the beginning of Hitler's Final Solution and the Holocaust against the Jews. Hitler was encouraged by the passive response of the German population, specifically the German churches, and knew he could go much further in his war on the Jews in Germany.

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Sources and Links on Kristallnacht:

 

Kristallnacht-from the Jewish Virtual Library

Kristallnacht-Wikipedia article

Kristallnacht - PBS

Kristallnacht - The History Place