This Day In History: “Kristallnacht,” or “the Night of Broken Glass,” Is Staged In Nazi Germany (1938)

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On this day in 1938, the Nazis’ in Germany organized a series of attacks against the German Jewish community. In the course of one night, many Jews were murdered, beaten, raped and robbed. The night of terror came to be known as “Kristallnacht,” or “the Night of Broken Glass,” This refers to the vast amount of glass that was destroyed by the Nazis as they attacked Jewish homes and shops. It is estimated that some 5 million marks worth of glass was destroyed that night.

The night of terror and violence had begun after the Nazis learned of the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris. He had been shot and killed by a Jewish refugee from Germany. He had carried out the attack because his father had been expelled to Poland from Germany by the Nazis. His original target had been the ambassador but he instead shot a member of the German Embassy’s staff. The irony was that the man killed was not a Nazi and hated Hitler and his henchmen.

Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels

Secretly, the Nazis may have been happy with the assassination as they wanted to persecute the Jews and if possible to drive even more Jews from the country. Hitler wanted to expel as many German Jews from the country as possible in the name of ‘racial purity’.

The night of violence was highly organized and it was masterminded by Goebbels the Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Heinrich Himmler commander of the SS. They organized the violence in such a way that it would appear to be spontaneous. In reality, the SS helped to organize the violence and actively participated in attacks against innocent Jewish civilians. Himmler ordered the local police not to interfere. Much of the violence was focussed on Jewish shops and family homes. Many Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

That terrible night some 7500 Jewish shops were looted and at least 36 people were murdered and countless injured. There were many rapes and this actually angered the Nazis and the laws forbade sexual intercourse between Germans and Jews.  They were expelled from the Nazi party and fined. However, the murders of Jews were not punished.

Crystal Night
Jewish shops damaged by the Nazis

The Jews were forced to pay a massive fine and any insurance money that they received  for damage was confiscated by the Nazis. Outside of Germany, there was widespread condemnation of the night of terror. This was ignored by the Nazis who believed that all foreign governments and newspapers were controlled by Jews or their sympathizers.

The terrible night was to start a new phase in the vicious anti-Semitic policies of Hitler and the Nazis. By the following year when the Germans invaded Poland that they began to summarily execute Jews and began to confine them to ghettoes. Soon they had established a series of Concentration Camps and here they began to murder Jews from all over Europe.

 

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