Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass” (9-10 November 1938)
On November 9, 1938, the Nazis unleashed a wave of pogroms against Germany’s Jews. In the space of 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”) for the shattered store windowpanes that carpeted German streets.
The excuse for this violence was the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, on the 7th of November 1938, by Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish teenager whose parents, along 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 acts of retaliation carried out by the SA, SS, and local Nazi party organizations.
Stormtroopers killed at least 91 Jews and injured many others. For the first time, 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. Release came only after the prisoners arranged to emigrate and agreed to transfer their property to “Aryans.”
Kristallnacht culminated the escalating violence against Jews that began during the incorporation of Austria into the Reich in March 1938. It also signalled the fateful transfer of responsibility for “solving” the “Jewish Question” to the SS. Soon afterwards in the Second World War, the Holocaust began.