Terror – Kristallnacht 1938

“Historians consider Kristallnacht as marking the beginning of the end for Europe’s Jewish community, 6 million members of which died during the ensuing Holocaust.” Chicago Tribune

The Nazis were preparing Germany for war against Europe and against the Jews. Jewish children were expelled from public schools. Trains, waiting rooms and restaurants were segregated between Jews and non-Jews, and Jews also began to be segregated in separate housing blocks. Jewish-owned businesses, factories and shops were expropriated or ‘transferred’ to ‘Aryan’ hands at artificially low prices, achieved in the main through violence and extortion against their Jewish owners.

Except for those who were permitted to emigrate, Jews were not allowed to own passports. Jews who did not have a ‘typically’ Jewish name had to adopt one. For men it became compulsory to add the name Israel and women Sarah to their passports. On 27 October 1938 17,000 Polish-born Jews living in Germany were expelled — the first mass deportations. These were largely carried out by the Schutzstaffel (SS), that would perpetrate many of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity committed during World War II. Members of SS forced men, women, children, whether frail or sick, across the Polish border. The Polish government permitted only some to remain in Poland. The rest of the Jews were forced to live in appalling conditions.

The anti-Jewish pogrom of Kristallnacht wrought havoc and terror on 9-10 November 1938. While Nazi propaganda reported it as a ‘spontaneous’ outbreak, in fact it had been carefully planned and orchestrated by high-ranking Nazi officials. The go-ahead was authorised by Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, and carried out by members of the Nazi regime. 100 Jews were killed, 1,668 synagogues, across Germany were ransacked, and 267 were set ablaze. Jewish-owned businesses were vandalised, looted and destroyed. Cynically, the Nazi leadership imposed a fine of one billion marks on German Jews for the damage that the Jews themselves had suffered. In the following three days some 30,000 male Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Kristallnacht’ is a German word that consists of two parts: ‘Kristall’ translates to ‘crystal’ and refers to the look of broken glass and ‘Nacht’ means “night.” The accepted English translation is the ‘Night of Broken Glass.’” About.com

Recommended Reading
Evans, R. (2005). The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939. New York: Penguin.
Friedländer, S. (1997), Nazi Germany and the Jews, Vol. 1: The Years of Persecution. New York
Kaplan, M.A, (1998), Between Dignity and Despair. Jewish Life in Nazi Germany. New York/Oxford: Oxford, University Press
Wistrich, R. S. (2001). Hitler & the Holocaust. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.