, literally translated, means "Crystal Night
Kristallnacht is a term coined by the Nazis, and was probably chosen to mock the Jews on the happenings of November 9, 1938. Specifically, it was coined by Walter Funk, and refers to the fact that the shards of glass from thousands of broken windows glittered like crystal on the streets. It should be noted that Nazis often used terms that would sound tame, when referring to horrendous acts, so as to minimize their importance and demoralize the victims: terms such as Final Solution and Erntefest (Harvest Festival - the Nazis' plan to annihilate the remaining Jews in Poland in the fall of 1943). Kristallnacht is more usually translated to English as "Night of the Broken Glass."
Events leading up to Kristallnacht
the Nuremberg Laws
are passed, depriving Jews of German citizenship
1938: Many laws are passed restricting Jews further, especially economically and occupationally.
October 28, 1938: Approximately 17,000 Polish Jews who live in Germany are arrested and sent to Poland. They are refused admission to Poland, and are placed in relocation camps on the border. Among these are Zindel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew who had been living in Hanover since 1911, and his family.
November 7, 1938: Herschel Grynszpan, 17 year old son of Zindel, who lives in Paris, receives news of his family's deportation. He sets out to the German embassy to assassinate the German Ambassador. When he finds the Ambassador is not there, he shoots Third Secretary Ernst vom Rath instead. Vom Rath is critically injured, and dies two days later.
November 9, 1938: Josef Goebbels, Hitler's Chief of Propaganda, saw the assasination as part of a conspiracy by 'International Jews', and an attack not against a low ranking official, but against Hitler himself. Hitler agreed, and so Goebbels launched the coordinated pogrom against Jews on that night. The official German stand was "that such demonstrations are not to be prepared or organized by the party, but so far as they originate spontaneously, they are not to be discouraged either".
On the night of November 9 and 10, 1938, gangs of Hitler Jugend
, accompanied by the SS
attacked Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues
in Jewish neighbourhoods. This was done all over Germany
. Windows and doors were broken, and thousands of Jewish shops and businesses were vandalised
. Hundreds of synagogue
s were burned while fire fighters
stood by and watched and only prevented fires from spreading to other houses. Torah
scrolls were destroyed. Jews were beaten, raped
SS leader Reinhard Heydrich reported 7500 businesses destroyed, 267 synagogues burned (with 177 totally destroyed) and 91 Jews killed in Kristallnacht.
In addition, about 26,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
On November 12
, Hermann Göring
called a meeting of top Nazi officials to discuss the economic impact
of Kristallnacht (i.e. to blame the Jews for it and make them pay for it) and to discuss further measures to be taken against the Jews. Among those present were Joseph Goebbels
, Reinhard Heydrich
and Walter Funk
"I should not want to leave any doubt, gentlemen, as to the aim of today's meeting. We have not come together merely to talk again, but to make decisions, and I implore competent agencies to take all measures for the elimination of the Jew from the German economy, and to submit them to me."
In the meeting, it was decided that Jews were responsible for the pogrom, and thus would be held legally and financially responsible. They would be fined 1 billion marks for the murder of Vom Rath, and any insurance money due would be confiscated by the state. It was also decided to eliminate Jews entirely from economic life in the Reich. All Jewish property would be transferred to 'Aryans' and Jews would be compensated in the form of bonds.
Following Kristallnacht, many antisemitic laws were passed to 'Aryanize' the German economy. In just two months after Kristallnacht, Jews were required to turn over all precious metals to the government, Jews were physically segregated within German towns, and a curfew was established to keep Jews off the streets between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. in the summer and 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in the winter. These are just a few of the laws that were passed in that brief period.
Kristallnacht is seen by many to be the beginning of the Holocaust.
"I shall close the meeting with these words," said Göring , "German Jewry shall, as punishment for their abominable crimes, et cetera, have to make a contribution for one billion marks. That will work. The swine won't commit another murder. Incidentally, I would like to say that I would not like to be a Jew in Germany."
- Pillar of Fire
- Yad Vashem