Kristallnacht - Kristallnacht, or the night of broken
glass, was a massive national
planned and conducted by the German Nazi regime against the Jews throughout
Germany and Austria. Beginning November 9, 1938, within a few hours, thousands of synagogues and
Jewish businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed. This event came to be
called Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") owing to the shattered store
windowpanes that carpeted German streets. The violence was carried out by the
S.A. (Sturm Abteilung - Storm troopers) the SS (Schutzstaffel) and party
branches. It was followed by a massive wave of arrests of Jews, interned in concentration camps,
and a series of regulations that humiliated, robbed and isolated the Jews.
The pretext for this violence was the November 7
shooting of a German
diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, by Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish teenager
living in Paris. His parents, together with 17,000 other Polish Jews, had been recently expelled
from the Reich. Though portrayed as spontaneous outbursts of popular outrage,
these pogroms were calculated and planned acts carried out by the SA, SS, and
local Nazi party organizations. Since 1933, the Nazis had enacted a series of
race laws designed to expel German Jews from German society. A
boycott of Jewish businesses was initiated in April 1933. The first laws against
the Jews were enacted April 7, 1933, in The Law for the Restoration of the
Civil Service, which banned Jews from the service. Jews were progressively
pushed out of German society, deprived of academic positions and lost their
property. The Nuremberg Laws, passed in 1935, deprived Jews of German
citizenship and forbade marriage or sexual contact between Jews and non-Jews. A
person with 1-2 Jewish grandparents was classified as of "mixed race," while
those with 3-4 Jewish grandparents were classified as Jews.
The Zionist leadership had suspected as early as
February of 1938 that the Nazis planned a large scale action against German
Jews. Progressively more discriminatory legislation against Jews had
caused about half the Jews
of Germany to emigrate. At the same time, German confidence in the indifference
of foreign governments to their acts increased. On March 13, 1938, the Nazis had
annexed Austria to Germany in the Anschluss. No foreign government did or said
In the summer of 1938, the Evian les Bains conference had made it plain to
the world that no country would accept Jewish refugees.
In September of 1938,
Germany had concluded the Munich agreement with Great Britain, which allowed it
to dismember Czechoslovakia. The regime grew in confidence with each step.
Germans chose to illustrate and emphasize the fact that no country would accept
Jewish refugees with the expulsion of the Polish
Jews. These got to the
border with Poland and were sent back, and then they were expelled again.
Jews who had gotten to the
Czech frontier were admitted but then expelled to Hungary. In the end it would make little
difference, as the Nazis were to overrun all of central and eastern Europe.
Grynszpan was distraught when his parents apprised him of their situation. He
bought a revolver and shot vom Rath, vowing revenge, on November 7.
The Nazis began their retaliation on November
8, with a series of decrees that stopped the publication of Jewish newspapers
Jews from schools. The Jewish
community had been deprived of reasonably livelihood, education and means of
communication. It was increasingly helpless.
On November 9, Vom Rath died of his wounds. Riots
broke out in the evening and in the early morning of November 10, which was also
the birthday of the anti-Semite Martin Luther, a fact noted by anti-Semitic
propaganda. The riots were evidently staggered so that they would perhaps appear
to be more "natural" The Gauleiters (district leaders) lead their local members
in rioting, beginning at about 10 PM. The SA and SS began their riots after 1 AM
on November 10. The disorders continued until November 11, when
Reichspropagandaminister Josef Goebbels called a halt. Gangs of SA, SS and party
faithful smashed store windows, trashed synagogues and beat and killed Jews.
About 200 synagogues were burned or destroyed.
The thugs killed at least 91 Jews and injured many others.
Some non-Jewish Germans were evidently killed by mistake. Jews were arrested on a massive scale and transported to
Nazi concentration camps. About 30,000 Jews were sent to Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen, where hundreds died within weeks of arrival.
Probably about 2,000 Jews died either the victims of murder, of poor conditions
or through suicide. Most of the prisoners were released within a few months
after they agreed to emigrate and agreed to transfer their property
to "Aryans." The confiscation of Jewish property was evidently a
primary goal of the pogrom, as orders had been given to prevent looting and
looters were arrested. In addition to confiscation of prisoners' property, Jews
were forced to pay for damages through a special fine of 1 billion Reichsmarks.
Insurance payments of about 6 million RM were confiscated by the state. Pensions
of Jewish pensioners were cut. Jews were forced to turn over precious metals to
the state. The
greed of the Nazis for money, a characteristic they attributed to Jews, knew no
Burned synagogue at Ramstadt (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Additional motives for the pogroms of Kristallnacht
were evidently a desire to please SA hoodlums and Nazis in various branches who
had, on some previous occasions, rioted against Jews in a less organized way,
while at the same time channeling their anti-Semitism to largely prevent
senseless destruction of property that did not benefit the state.
Kristallnacht signaled the fateful transfer of
responsibility for "solving" the "Jewish Question" to the SS. Many believe that
Kristallnacht was really the beginning of the
Holocaust, but in
meetings held just after the riots, the "solution" envisioned by Nazi
officials was emigration of Jews
and confiscation of their property.
Reactions of Germans ranged from favorable approval
to ineffective disdain. Reactions of foreign governments were limited to
pro-forma diplomatic protests and withdrawal of ambassadors. No country reversed
the its refusal to accept immigrants that had been announced at Evian les Bains.
In May 1939, the liner Saint Louis sailed from Bremen with its load of Jewish
immigrants who were unable to find a safe haven. Later that year, the British
Mandate for Palestine officially slammed the doors of Palestine shut to Jewish
immigration with the White Paper.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Further Information: Anti-Semitism Holocaust Pogrom
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:
'H - ('het) a guttural sound
made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that
have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch,
especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.
ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch"
in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against
the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."
u - usually between oo as in spoon
and u as in put.
a- sounded like a in arm
ah- used to represent an a sound made by
the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative
'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic
ayin, a guttural ah sound.
o - close to the French o as in homme.
th - (taf without a dot) - Th was
formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there
is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and
Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.
q- (quf) - In transliteration of
Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding
words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for
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