What is Kristallnacht and why is it a significant event?
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) was a
government-sponsored outbreak of violence against the Jews in
Germany - a pogrom. It began in the night of 9-10 November 1938 and
lasted for some days.
During this night in November 1938 all German and Austrian
synagogues were ordered burned by Goebbels in retaliation for the
murder of a German by an angry Polish Jew.
Windows of Jewish owned businesses were smashed, homes were
wrecked, 400 Jews were killled and about 30,000 Jews were sent to
concentration camps. By Christmas 1938 two thousand of these Jews
On 28 October 1938, about 17,000 Polish Jews, many of whom had been
living in Germany for 15-20 years or longer, were arrested and sent
to the Polish border. The Polish government (which was very
anti-Jewish) only admitted about about 25% of them and refused to
admit the others, claiming they were stateless. These Jews were
interned in camps on the German-Polish frontier in a kind of
The son of one of these unfortunate people assassinated a minor
official at the German embassy in Paris.
On the night of 9-10 November 1938 Stormstroopers, acting on
orders, smashed up Jewish shops, homes and every synagogue the
length and breadth of Germany and Austria. In some places the
Stormtroopers wore civilian clothes in order to make it look as it
enraged members of the public were spontaneously committing the
violence. About 30,000 Jews were seized and sent to concentration
camps and were only released if they obtained visas to enter
foreign countries. (Of these, about 2,000 were dead by Christmas
The Nazi regime ordered the Jewish community to pay for the
damage done to its own property and also imposed a collective fine
The event is significant as it marked a major intensification of
the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. It was the first time
that the Nazis used organized, widespread violence against Jews
simply because they were Jews. It became clear that they were no
longer safe in Germany. Those who were able to do so, left Germany
"Why_was_it_called_'Kristallnacht'?">Why was it called
It is called that because of the broken glass. In English
'Kristallnacht' is often referred to as the 'Night of the Broken
Glass'. (The German 'Kristall' refers to the high grade 'crystal'
glass often used at the time for shop windows).
Kristallnacht (the 'Night of the Broken Glass) was a planned attack
by Goebbels who thought an attack against the Jews would please
Hitler and other Nazis. However, the Nazis claimed that
Kristallnacht was a spontaneous attack by the German public as a
retaliation of the murder of a Nazi official in Paris by a Jew.
This was a lie. This murder was not the cause of Kristallnacht. The
attacks were carried out by the SS and SA, many dressed in plain
clothes, and services such as the firemen were to be seen to
putting out fires either side of Jewish houses but not the Jewish
houses themselves. The damage caused was devasting. Jewish houses,
shops, businesses, synagogues were ruined, 91 (?) Jews were killed
and 30,000 were deported to concentration camps. To add insult to
injury the Nazis then demanded from the Jews millions of
Reichsmarks to compensate for the damage done to their own
Note. More recent research (in the 1980s) indicates a figure of
400 Jews killed during Kristallnacht and the next two days or so.
The often quoted figure of 91 was that issued by the Nazis
themselves and is completely unreliable.
Jewish busineses, shops and synagogues were pillaged and burned.
Jews were beaten up and killed and some Jewish women were raped by
The night of broken glass, a.k.a. Kristallnacht was a massive
beating up of Jewish people throughout Germany on November 9th to
10th, 1938. Many Jewish homes were broken into and destroyed,
leaving the streets lined with broken glass (hence its name). Jews
were beaten to death; 30,000 Jewish men were taken to concentration
camps. Throughout Germany, Austria, and part of Czechloslovakia,
Jews were beaten, raped and murdered. Afterwards, protests began
againast Kristallnacht in foreign countries, including in America.
In New York, German goods were boycotted and swastika flags were
burned in Chicago ...
"Why_the_Nazis_organized_Kristallnacht">Why the Nazis organized
Some Jews had left Germany from 1933 onwards, but many were still
in the country in 1938. The annexation of Austria and the
Sudetenland had significantly increased the number of Jews in
Germany. The main purpose of the pogrom was to bully the German and
Austrian Jews into getting out of the country. There was a sudden
stampede to get out of Germany.