24 Shocking Photographs of the Kristallnacht Destruction of 1938

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Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, was a destructive riot targeting Jews throughout Nazi Germany on November 9-10, 1938 carried out by the Sturmabteilung paramilitary of the Nazi party and the German citizens.

Jewish homes, hospitals, cemeteries, and schools, were pillaged, and attackers took sledgehammers to the buildings and destroyed windows littering the sidewalks with shards of broken glass. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned and over 7,000 Jewish businesses were either destroyed or damaged. Early reports estimated that 91 Jewish people were murdered during the attacks, but the death toll is currently believed to be much higher. There were 30,000 Jewish men who were arrested and incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.

Some speculate the horrific night of aggression is the result of the assassination of the Nazi diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a German-born Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan. Kristallnacht was followed by additional economic and political persecutions of Jews, culminating with the Final Solution and The Holocaust.

On November 11, 1938, The Times published that “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”

On November 11, 1938, Daily Telegraph published that “Mob law ruled in Berlin throughout the afternoon and evening and hordes of hooligans indulged in an orgy of destruction. I have seen several anti-Jewish outbreaks in Germany during the last five years, but never anything as nauseating as this. Racial hatred and hysteria seemed to have taken complete hold of otherwise decent people. I saw fashionably dressed women clapping their hands and screaming with glee, while respectable middle-class mothers held up their babies to see the ‘fun.’”

As the synagogue in Oberramstadt burns during Kristallnacht (the “Night of Broken Glass”), firefighters instead save a nearby house. Local residents watch as the synagogue is destroyed. Oberramstadt, Germany, November 9-10, 1938. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Trudy Isenber
German children, behind an SS man, watch as religious objects from the Zeven synagogue are set on fire during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). Zeven, Germany, November 10, 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jewish-owned shop destroyed during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). Berlin, Germany, November 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Local residents watch the burning of the ceremonial hall at the Jewish cemetery in Graz during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). Graz, Austria, November 9-10, 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Shattered storefront of a Jewish-owned shop destroyed during Kristallnacht (the “Night of Broken Glass”). Berlin, Germany, November 10, 1938. — National Archives and Records Administration
Frankfurt, Germany, Burning of the Boemestrasse Synagogue on Kristallnacht, 10/11/1938.
The holy ark in the sanctuary of the Seitenstetten Street synagogue, demolished during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). Vienna, Austria, after November 9, 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
The damaged lintel above a Torah ark from a synagogue that was destroyed during Kristallnacht. Nentershausen, Germany, 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Musuem
Herzog Rudolfstrasse synagogue after it was destroyed during Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). Munich, Germany, November 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Neue Weltgasse synagogue burns during the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) pogrom. Vienna, Austria, November 9, 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
The shattered stained glass windows of the Zerrennerstrasse synagogue after its destruction on Kristallnacht. Pforzheim, Germany, ca. November 10, 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
The synagogue in Oberramstadt (a town in southwestern Germany) burns during Kristallnacht. Oberramstadt, Germany, November 9-10, 1938. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Trudy Isenberg
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