What is Kristallnacht?Kristallnacht, also known as Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht and “The Night of Broken Glass”, was a massive nation-wide pogrom in Germany on the night of November 9, 1938 including the early hours of the following day and was directed at Jewish citizens throughout Germany, the newly acquired territories of Austria and Sudetenland. Germans freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes and at their places of work and worship. On those two days, this pogrom damaged, and in many cases destroyed, about 1574 synagogues (constituting nearly all Germany had), many Jewish cemeteries, more than 7,000 Jewish shops, and 29 department stores. More than 30,000 Jews were arrested and taken to concentration camps; a few were beaten to death with others forced to watch. The number of Jewish Germans killed is uncertain, with estimates ranging from 36 to about 200 over two days of rioting. The number of Jews killed is most often cited as 91. In Israeli Ambassador Chaim Herzog’s response To ‘Zionism Is Racism’ Resolution to the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 10, 1975, he said this about Kristillnacht:
“This was the night in 1938 when Hitler’s Nazi storm-troopers launched a coordinated attack on the Jewish community in Germany, burned the synagogues in all its cities and made bonfires in the streets of the Holy Books and the Scrolls of the Holy Law and Bible. It was the night when Jewish homes were attacked and heads of families taken away, many of them never to return. It was the night when the windows of all Jewish businesses and stores were smashed, covering the streets in the cities of Germany with a film of broken glass which dissolved into the millions of crystals which gave that night its name. It was the night which led eventually to the crematoria and the gas chambers, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Dachau, Buchenwald, Theresienstadt and others. It was the night which led to the most terrifying holocaust in the history of man.”
One organization called “Synagogue Memorial,” is dedicated to memorializing all the houses of prayer that were destroyed on the infamous Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938 in Germany. The official German position on the nights of rioting and murder, which were orchestrated by Goebbels, was that they were spontaneous outbursts. Goebbels reported “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.” (Conot, Robert E. Justice At Nuremberg. NY: Harper & Row, 1983:165)Three days later, on November 12, Hermann Goering called a meeting of the top Nazi leadership to assess the damage done during the night and place responsibility for it. Present at the meeting were Goering, Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, Walter Funk and other ranking Nazi officials. The intent of this meeting was to make the Jews responsible for Kristallnacht and to use the events of the preceding days as a rationale for promulgating a series of antisemitic laws which would, in effect, remove Jews from the German economy. An interpretive transcript of this meeting is provided by Robert Conot, Justice at Nuremberg, New York: Harper and Row, 1983:164-172):
Goering announced, ‘Gentlemen! Today’s meeting is of a decisive nature,’announced. ‘I have received a letter written on the Fuehrer’s orders requesting that the Jewish question be now, once and for all, oordinated and solved one way or another.”Since the problem is mainly an economic one, it is from the economic angle it shall have to be tackled. Because, gentlemen, I have had enough of these demonstrations! They don’t harm the Jew but me, who is the final authority for coordinating the German economy. `If today a Jewish shop is destroyed, if goods are thrown into the street, the insurance companies will pay for the damages; and, furthermore, consumer goods belonging to the people are destroyed. If in the future, demonstrations which are necessary occur, then, I pray, that they be directed so as not to hurt us.’Because it’s insane to clean out and burn a Jewish warehouse, then have a German insurance company make good the loss. And the goods which I need desperately, whole bales of clothing
and whatnot, are being burned. And I miss them everywhere. I may as well burn the raw materials before they arrive.’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.’
It was decided at the meeting that, since Jews were to blame for these events, they be held legally and financially responsible for the damages incurred by the pogrom. Accordingly, a “fine of 1 billion marks was levied and 6 million marks paid by insurance companies for broken windows was to be given to the state coffers. (Snyder, Louis L. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, New York: Paragon House, 1989:201).The night ushered in a new phase in the antisemetic activities of the Nazi state, leading to the deportation and the extermination of most of the Jewish people living in Germany.This night began the horror of the Holocaust.