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Part of the Holocaust
Photograph of the smashed interior of the Berlin synagogue
The interior of the Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin after Kristallnacht
Location Nazi Germany and Austria (then part of Germany)
Date 9–10 November 1938
Target Jewish population of Germany and Austria
Attack type
Pogrom, looting, arson, mass murder, state terrorism
Deaths 91+
Perpetrators Sturmabteilung (SA) stormtroopers, German & Austrian civilians

Kristallnacht (German pronunciation: ; English: "Crystal Night") or Reichskristallnacht [ˌʁaɪçs.kʁɪsˈtalnaχt], also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, Reichspogromnacht [ˌʁaɪçs.poˈɡʁoːmnaχt] or simply Pogromnacht , and Novemberpogrome , was a pogrom (a series of coordinated deadly attacks) against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening.[1][2] The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues had their windows smashed.[3]

Estimates of the number of fatalities caused by the pogrom have varied. Early reporting estimated that 91 Jewish people were murdered during the attacks.[3] Modern analysis of German scholarly sources by historians such as Richard J. Evans puts the number much higher. When deaths from post-arrest maltreatment and subsequent suicides are included, the death toll climbs into the hundreds.

Additionally, 30,000 were arrested and incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.[3] Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.[4] Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.[5][6] Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world.[4] The Times wrote at the time: "No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday."[7]

The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew living in Paris. Kristallnacht was followed by additional economic and political persecution of Jews, and is viewed by historians as part of Nazi Germany's broader racial policy, and the beginning of the Final Solution and The Holocaust.[8]


  • Etymology 1
  • Background 2
    • Early Nazi persecutions 2.1
    • Expulsion of Polish Jews in Germany 2.2
    • Shooting of vom Rath 2.3
  • Pogrom 3
    • Death of vom Rath 3.1
    • Riots 3.2
    • Concentration camps 3.3
  • Aftermath 4
  • Responses to Kristallnacht 5
    • From the Germans 5.1
    • From the global community 5.2
  • Kristallnacht as a turning point 6
  • Modern response 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The incident was originally referred to as die Kristallnacht (literally "crystal night"), alluding to the enormous number of glass windows broken throughout the night, mostly in synagogues and Jewish-owned shops. The prefix Reichs- (imperial) was later added (Reichskristallnacht) as a sardonic comment on the Nazis' propensity to add this prefix to various terms and titles like Reichsführer-SS or Reichsmarschall.


Early Nazi persecutions

In the 1920s, most German Jews were fully integrated into German society as German citizens. They served in the German army and navy and contributed to every field of German science, business and culture.[9] Conditions for the Jews began to change after the appointment of Adolf Hitler (the leader of the Nazi group) as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933, and the assumption of power by Hitler after the Reichstag fire.[10][11] From its inception, Hitler's regime moved quickly to introduce anti-Jewish policies. The 500,000 Jews in Germany, who accounted for only 0.86% of the overall population, were singled out by the Nazi propaganda machine as an enemy within who were responsible for Germany's defeat in the First World War and for its subsequent economic difficulties, such as the 1920s hyperinflation and Great Depression.[12] Beginning in 1933, the German government enacted a series of anti-Jewish laws restricting the rights of German Jews to earn a living, to enjoy full citizenship and to gain education, including the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, which forbade Jews to work in the civil service.[13] The subsequent 1935 Nuremberg Laws stripped German Jews of their citizenship and forbade Jews to marry non-Jewish Germans.

The result of these laws was the exclusion of Jews from German social and political life.[14] Many sought asylum abroad; hundreds of thousands emigrated, but as Chaim Weizmann wrote in 1936, "The world seemed to be divided into two parts—those places where the Jews could not live and those where they could not enter."[15] The international Évian Conference, on 6 July 1938, addressed the issue of Jewish and Gypsy immigration to other countries. By the time the conference was held, more than 250,000 Jews had fled Germany and Austria, which had been annexed by Germany in March 1938; more than 300,000 German and Austrian Jews were still seeking refuge and asylum from oppression. As the number of Jews and Gypsies wanting to leave increased, the restrictions against them grew, with many countries tightening their rules for admission. By 1938, Germany "had entered a new radical phase in anti-Semitic activity."[16] Some historians believe that the Nazi government had been contemplating a planned outbreak of violence against the Jews and were waiting for an appropriate provocation; there is evidence of this planning dating to 1937.[17] In a 1997 interview, the German historian Hans Mommsen claimed that a major motive for the pogrom was the desire of the Gauleiters of the NSDAP to seize Jewish property and businesses.[18] Mommsen was quoted as saying:

The need for money by the party organization stemmed from the fact that Hermann Göring, in charge of the Four-Year Plan, hoped to acquire access to foreign currency in order to pay for the import of urgently-needed raw material. Heydrich and Himmler were interested in fostering Jewish emigration".[18]

The Zionist leadership in the British Mandate of Palestine wrote in February 1938 that according to "a very reliable private source—one which can be traced back to the highest echelons of the SS leadership," there was "an intention to carry out a genuine and dramatic pogrom in Germany on a large scale in the near future."[19]

Expulsion of Polish Jews in Germany

Polish Jews expelled from Germany in late October 1938

In August 1938 the German authorities announced that residence permits for foreigners were being cancelled and would have to be renewed. This included German-born Jews of foreign origin. Poland stated that it would not accept Jews of Polish origin after the end of October. In the so-called "Polenaktion", more than 12,000 Polish-born Jews, among them the philosopher and theologian Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and future literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, were expelled from Germany on 28 October 1938, on Hitler's orders. They were ordered to leave their homes in a single night, and were allowed only one suitcase per person to carry their belongings. As the Jews were taken away, their remaining possessions were seized as loot by both the Nazi authorities and by their neighbors.

The deportees were taken from their homes to railway stations and were put on trains to the Polish border, where Polish border guards sent them back over the river into Germany. This stalemate continued for days in the pouring rain, with the Jews marching without food or shelter between the borders. Four thousand were granted entry into Poland, but the remaining 8,000 were forced to stay at the border. They waited there in harsh conditions to be allowed to enter Poland. A British newspaper told its readers that hundreds "are reported to be lying about, penniless and deserted, in little villages along the frontier near where they had been driven out by the Gestapo and left."[20] Conditions in the refugee camps "were so bad that some actually tried to escape back into Germany and were shot", recalled a British woman who was sent to help those who had been expelled.[21]

Shooting of vom Rath

Herschel Grynszpan, 7 November 1938

Among those expelled was the family of Sendel and Riva Grynszpan, Polish Jews who had emigrated to Germany in 1911 and settled in Hanover, Germany. At the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, Sendel Grynszpan recounted the events of their deportation from Hanover on the night of 27 October 1938: "Then they took us in police trucks, in prisoners' lorries, about 20 men in each truck, and they took us to the railway station. The streets were full of people shouting: ‍ '​Juden raus! Auf nach Palästina!‍ '​" ("Jews out, out to Palestine!").[22] Their seventeen-year-old son Herschel was living in Paris with an uncle.[8] Herschel received a postcard from his family from the Polish border, describing the family's expulsion: "No one told us what was up, but we realised this was going to be the end ... We haven't a penny. Could you send us something?"[23] He received the postcard on 3 November 1938.

On the morning of Monday, 7 November 1938, he purchased a revolver and a box of bullets, then went to the German embassy and asked to see an embassy official. After he was taken to the office of

The next day, the German government retaliated, barring Jewish children from German state elementary schools, indefinitely suspending Jewish cultural activities, and putting a halt to the publication of Jewish newspapers and magazines, including the three national German Jewish newspapers. A newspaper in Britain described the last move, which cut off the Jewish populace from their leaders, as "intended to disrupt the Jewish community and rob it of the last frail ties which hold it together."[12] Their rights as citizens had been stripped.[25]


Death of vom Rath

Telegram sent by Reinhard Heydrich, 9 November 1938

Ernst vom Rath died of his wounds on 9 November. Word of his death reached Hitler that evening while he was with several key members of the Nazi party at a dinner commemorating the 1923

  • Events Leading Up to Kristallnacht - What led to the Night of Broken Glass?, by The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education
  • Interview with Susan WarsingerVoices on Antisemitism from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • in JerusalemSynagogues Memorial institute
  • It Came From Within... 71 Years Since Kristallnacht - Online exhibition from Yad Vashem, including survivor testimonies, archival footage, photos, and stories
  • "At 7:00 in the morning I was a student, and at 5:00, I was a criminal" - Interview with Miriam Ron, Witness to the Events of Kristallnacht

External links

Books in English
  • Browning, Christopher R. (2003). Collected memories: Holocaust history and postwar testimony. George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History. Madison:  
  • Mayer, Kurt (2009). My Personal Brush with History. Tacoma: Kurt Mayer, Confluence Books.  
  • Friedlander, Saul (1998). Nazi Germany and the Jews : Volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939. New York, NY: Perennial.  
  • Gilbert, Martin (1986). The Holocaust: the Jewish tragedy. London: Collins.  
  • Johnson, Eric J. (1999). Nazi terror: the Gestapo, Jews, and ordinary Germans. New York:  
  • Mosse, George L. (1978). Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism. New York: Howard Fertig.
    • Mosse, George L. (2000). Confronting history: a memoir. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.  
    • Mosse, George L. (2003). Nazi culture: intellectual, cultural and social life in the Third Reich. Madison:  
    • Mosse, George L. (1999). The Crisis of German Ideology : Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich. New York: Howard Fertig.  
  • Schwab, Gerald (1990). The day the Holocaust began: the odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan. New York:  
  • Yahil, Leni (1990). The Holocaust: the fate of European Jewry, 1932-1945. Oxford [Oxfordshire]:  
  • Dawidowicz, Lucy (1986). The War Against the Jews: 1933-1945. UK: Bantam.  
  • Steinweis, Alan E. (2009). Kristallnacht 1938. Harvard University Press.  
Books in German
  • Christian Faludi: Die „Juni-Aktion" 1938. Eine Dokumentation zur Radikalisierung der Judenverfolgung. Campus, Frankfurt a. M./New York 2013, ISBN 978-3-593-39823-5
  • Hans-Dieter Arntz. "Reichskristallnacht". Der Novemberpogrom 1938 auf dem Lande - Gerichtsakten und Zeugenaussagen am Beispiel der Eifel und Voreifel, Helios-Verlag, Aachen 2008, ISBN 978-3-938208-69-4
  • Doscher, Hans-Jurgen (1988). Reichskristallnacht: Die Novemberpogrome 1938 (in German). Ullstein.  
  • Kaul, Friedrich Karl; Herschel Feibel Grynszpan (1965). Der Fall des Herschel Grynszpan (in German). Berlin: Akademie-Verl.  ISBN Unknown. ASIN B0014NJ88M. Available at Oxford Journals (PDF)
  • Korb, Alexander (2007). Reaktionen der deutschen Bevölkerung auf die Novemberpogrome im Spiegel amtlicher Berichte (in German). Saarbrücken:  
  • Lauber, Heinz (1981). Judenpogrom: "Reichskristallnacht" November 1938 in Grossdeutschland : Daten, Fakten, Dokumente, Quellentexte, Thesen und Bewertungen (Aktuelles Taschenbuch) (in German). Bleicher.  
  • Pätzold, Kurt & Runge, Irene (1988). Kristallnacht: Zum Pogrom 1938 (Geschichte) (in German). Köln: Pahl-Rugenstein.  
  • Pehle, Walter H. (1988). Der Judenpogrom 1938: Von der "Reichskristallnacht" zum Völkermord (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag.  
  • Schultheis, Herbert (1985). Die Reichskristallnacht in Deutschland nach Augenzeugenberichten (Bad Neustadter Beiträge zur Geschichte und Heimatkunde Frankens) (in German). Bad Neustadt a. d. Saale: Rotter Druck und Verlag.  
Online resources
  • Wroe, David (21 October 2008). "Hitler 'led henchmen' in Kristallnacht riots". Daily Telegraph. 
  • Segev, Tom (31 October 2008). "Hitler gave the order". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. 
  • Rabbi Eliahu Ellis & Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky. "Kristallnacht". Holocaust studies. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • "'"Germany commemorates Nazi era 'Kristallnacht. 1998-11-09. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • "What Was Kristallnacht?". THHP Short Essays. The Holocaust History Project. 2003-11-28. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • """Kristallnacht "Night of Crystal" - "Night of Broken Glass. Holocaust Prelude. Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. 2006–2007. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • Frieda Miller, Vancouver Holocaust Education Center (2008-02-25). "Kristallnacht". From Aryanization to Cultural Loss: The Destruction of the Jewish Fashion Industry in Germany and Austria. Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • "Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany 29th July to 8th August 1946". The Trial of German Major War Criminals Volume 20. The Nizkor Project. 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • Allida Black, June Hopkins; et al. (2003). "The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers - Kristallnacht". Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt;  
  • "Kristallnacht: A Nationwide Pogrom, November 9–10, 1938". Holocaust Encyclopedia. US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • "Kristallnacht: The November 1938 Pogroms". Online exhibitions, special topics. US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  • Yad Vashem (2004). "Kristallnacht". Yad Vashem's Photo Archives. The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 


  1. ^ "'German Mobs' Vengeance on Jews", The Daily Telegraph, 11 November 1938, cited in Gilbert, Martin. Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction. Harper Collins, 2006, p. 42.
  2. ^ The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's "Holocaust Encyclopedia" is a more definitive reference that is similar to this WorldHeritage article
  3. ^ a b c "World War II: Before the War", The Atlantic, 19 June 2011. "Windows of shops owned by Jews which were broken during a coordinated anti-Jewish demonstration in Berlin, known as Kristallnacht, on Nov. 10, 1938. Nazi authorities turned a blind eye as SA stormtroopers and civilians destroyed storefronts with hammers, leaving the streets covered in pieces of smashed windows. Some sources estimate that ninety-one Jews were killed, and 30,000 Jewish men were taken to concentration camps."
  4. ^ a b Gilbert, pp. 13–14.
  5. ^ Berenbaum, Michael & Kramer, Arnold (2005). The World Must Know. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. p. 49.
  6. ^ Gilbert, pp. 30–33.
  7. ^ "A Black Day for Germany", The Times, 11 November 1938, cited in Gilbert, p. 41.
  8. ^ a b Multiple authors (1998). "Kristallnacht". The Hutchinson Encyclopedia 1998 edition. Hutchinson Encyclopedias 1998 (18 (1998) ed.). England: Helicon Publishing. p. 1199.  
  9. ^ Goldstein, Joseph (1995). Jewish History in Modern Times. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-1-898723-06-6.
  10. ^ Trueman, Chris. "Nazi Germany - dictatorship". Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  11. ^ "Hitler's Enabling Act". Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  12. ^ a b c Gilbert, p. 23.
  13. ^ Cooper, R.M. (1992). Refugee Scholars:Conversations with Tess Simpson. Leeds. p. 31. 
  14. ^ "The Holocaust". Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  15. ^ Manchester Guardian, 23 May 1936, cited in A.J. Sherman, Island Refuge, Britain and the Refugees from the Third Reich, 1933–1939, (London, Elek Books Ltd, 1973), p. 112, also in The Evian Conference — Hitler's Green Light for Genocide, by Annette Shaw
  16. ^ Johnson, Eric. The Nazi Terror: Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans. United States: Basic Books, 1999, p. 117.
  17. ^ Friedländer, Saul. Nazi Germany and The Jews, volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933–1939, London: Phoenix, 1997, p. 270
  18. ^ a b Mommsen, Hans (12 December 1997). "Interview with Hans Mommsen" (PDF). Yad Vashem. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Goerg Landauer to Martin Rosenbluth, 8 February 1938, cited in Friedländer, loc. cit.
  20. ^ "Expelled Jews' Dark Outlook". Newspaper article (London: The Times). 1 November 1938. Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  21. ^ "Recollections of Rosalind Herzfled," Jewish Chronicle, 28 September 1979, p. 80; cited in Gilbert, The Holocaust—The Jewish Tragedy, London: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1986.
  22. ^ Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, p. 228.
  23. ^ German State Archives, Potsdam, quoted in Rita Thalmann and Emmanuel Feinermann, Crystal night, 9–10 November 1938, pp. 33, 42.
  24. ^ William L. Shirer, The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, p. 430.
  25. ^ "Nazis Planning Revenge on Jews", News Chronicle, 9 November 1938
  26. ^ Friedländer, op.cit., p. 268.
  27. ^ Walter Buch to Goring, 13.2.1939, Michaelis and Schraepler, Ursachen, Vol.12, p. 582 as cited in Friedländer, p. 271.
  28. ^ Graml, Anti-Semitism, p. 13 cited in Friedländer, op.cit., p 272
  29. ^ "Heydrich's secret instructions regarding the riots in November 1938", (Simon Wiesenthal Center)
  30. ^ GermanNotes, retrieved 26 November 2007
  31. ^ "The deportation of Regensburg Jews to Dachau concentration camp" (Yad Vashem Photo Archives 57659)
  32. ^ Lucas, Eric. "The sovereigns", Kibbutz Kfar Blum (Palestine), 1945, pg 171 cited in Gilbert, op.cit., p 67.
  33. ^ Raul Hilberg. The Destruction of the European Jews, Third Edition, (Yale Univ. Press, 2003, c1961), Ch.3.
  34. ^ Carleton Greene, Hugh. Daily Telegraph, 11 November 1938 cited in "The Road to World War II", Western New England College.
  35. ^ "The Road to World War II", Western New England College.[2]
  36. ^ a b "Kristallnacht Remembered". Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  37. ^ Conot, Robert. Justice at Nuremberg, New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1983, pp. 164–72.
  38. ^ "JudenVermoegersabgabe" (The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies)
  39. ^ Jewish emigration from Germany (USHMM)
  40. ^ Connolly, Kate (22 October 2008). "Kristallnacht remnants unearthed near Berlin". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  41. ^ Scheer, Regina (1993). "Im Revier 16 (In precinct No. 16)". Die Hackeschen Höfe. Geschichte und Geschichten einer Lebenswelt in der Mitte Berlins (Gesellschaft Hackesche Höfe e.V. (ed.), pp. 78 ed.). Berlin: Argon. ISBN 3-87024-254-X.
  42. ^ Gilbert, op. cit., p. 70
  43. ^ Dr. Arthur Flehinger, "Flames of Fury", Jewish Chronicle, 9 November 1979, p. 27, cited in Gilbert, loc. cit.
  44. ^ , 11 November 1938The Argus"New Campaign Against Jews",
  45. ^ Daily Telegraph, 12 November 1938. Cited in Gilbert, Martin. Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction. Harper Collins, 2006, p. 142.
  46. ^ Eugene Davidson. The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-8262-1045-6. p. 325
  47. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 pp. 263-264
  48. ^ a b Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 p. 266
  49. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 p. 159
  50. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 p. 156
  51. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 p. 157
  52. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 pp. 175-179
  53. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 p. 176
  54. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 pp. 180, 207
  55. ^ Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 pp. 175-179, 215
  56. ^ a b c d e Sarah Ann Gordon. Hitler, Germans, and the Jewish Question. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-10162-0 pp. 251, 252, 258, 259
  57. ^ Bernd Nellessen, "Die schweigende Kirche: Katholiken und Judenverfolgung", in Büttner (ed)Die Deutschen und die Judenverfolgung im Dritten Reich , p. 265, cited in Daniel Goldhagen'sHitler's Willing Executioners (Vintage, 1997).
  58. ^ Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe's House Divided, 1490-1700. New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 2004, pp. 666-67.
  59. ^ Miskin, Maayana (8 February 2010). "Yad Vashem to Honor Aborigine". Israel National News. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  60. ^ "Telegram protesting against the persecution of Jews in Germany" (PDF) (in Español). El Clarín de Chile's. 
  61. ^ Lewis, Geraint (May 2010). "Tippett, Sir Michael Kemp". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition). Retrieved 29 April 2012.  (subscription required)
  62. ^ Krefeld, Stadt (1988). Ehemalige Krefelder Juden berichten uber ihre Erlebnisse in der sogenannten Reichskristallnacht. Krefelder Juden in Amerika 3. Cited in Johnson, Eric. Krefeld Stadt Archiv: Basic Books. p. 117. 
  63. ^ Seth Rogovoy (April 20, 2001). "Gary Lucas: Action guitarist".  
  64. ^ "BAP Songtexte (German)". Retrieved 16 May 2008. 


See also

Kristallnacht has been depicted on the screen in a number of Holocaust-themed films and television shows, among them 1978's Holocaust (TV miniseries) and 1990's Europa Europa.

Kristallnacht was the inspiration for the 1993 album Kristallnacht by the composer John Zorn. The German power metal band Masterplan's debut album, Masterplan (2003), features an anti-Nazism song entitled "Crystal Night" as the fourth track. The German band BAP published a song titled "Kristallnaach" in their Cologne dialect, dealing with the emotions of the Kristallnacht.[64]

Many decades later, association with the Kristallnacht anniversary was cited as the main reason against choosing 9 November ("Schicksalstag"), the day the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, as the new German national holiday; a different day was chosen (3 October 1990, German reunification). The avant-garde guitarist Gary Lucas's 1988 composition "Verklärte Kristallnacht", which juxtaposes the Israeli national anthem, "Hatikvah", with phrases from "Deutschland Über Alles" amid wild electronic shrieks and noise, is intended to be a sonic representation of the horrors of Kristallnacht. It was premiered at the 1988 Berlin Jazz Festival and received rave reviews. (The title is a reference to Arnold Schoenberg's 1899 work "Verklärte Nacht" that presaged his pioneering work on atonal music; Schoenberg was an Austrian Jew who would move to the United States to escape the Nazis).[63]

Modern response

Specifically, the Nazis managed to achieve in Kristallnacht all the theoretical targets they set for themselves: confiscation of Jewish belongings to provide finances for the military buildup to war, separation and isolation of the Jews, and most importantly, the move from the antisemitic policy of discrimination to one of physical damage, which began that night and continued until the end of World War II. The event showed the public attitude was not solidly behind the perpetrators. Many Germans at the time found the pogroms troubling, because they equated them with the days of the SA street rule and lawlessness. The British Embassy in Berlin and British Consular offices throughout Germany received many protests and expressions of disquiet from members of the German public about the anti-Jewish actions of the time.

Five handicapped Jewish prisoners who arrived in Buchenwald after Kristallnacht.

While November 1938 predated overt articulation of "the Final Solution", it foreshadowed the genocide to come. Around the time of Kristallnacht, the SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps called for a "destruction by swords and flames." At a conference on the day after the pogrom, Hermann Göring said: "The Jewish problem will reach its solution if, in any time soon, we will be drawn into war beyond our border—then it is obvious that we will have to manage a final account with the Jews."[12]

Kristallnacht changed the nature of persecution from economic, political, and social to physical with beatings, incarceration, and murder; the event is often referred to as the beginning of the Holocaust. In the words of historian Max Rein in 1988, "Kristallnacht came...and everything was changed."[62]

Kristallnacht as a turning point

After the Kristallnacht, Salvador Allende, Gabriel González Videla, Marmaduke Grove, Florencio Durán and other members of the Congress of Chile sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler denouncing the persecution of Jews.[60] A more personal response, in 1939, was the oratorio A Child of Our Time by the English composer Michael Tippett.[61]

Kristallnacht sparked international outrage. It discredited pro-Nazi movements in Europe and North America, leading to eventual decline of their support. Many newspapers condemned Kristallnacht, with some comparing it to the murderous pogroms incited by Imperial Russia in the 1880s. The United States recalled its ambassador (but did not break off diplomatic relations) while other governments severed diplomatic relations with Germany in protest. The British government approved the Kindertransport program for refugee children. As such, Kristallnacht also marked a turning point in relations between Nazi Germany and the rest of the world. The brutality of the pogrom, and the Nazi government's deliberate policy of encouraging the violence once it had begun, laid bare the repressive nature and widespread anti-Semitism entrenched in Germany, and turned world opinion sharply against the Nazi regime, with some politicians calling for war. The private protest against the Germans following Kristallnacht was held on 6 December 1938. William Cooper, an Aboriginal Australian, led a delegation of the Australian Aboriginal League on a march through Melbourne to the German Consulate to deliver a petition which condemned the "cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany". German officials refused to accept the tendered document.[59]

After 1945 some synagogues were restored. This one in Berlin features a plaque, reading "Never forget", a common expression around Berlin

From the global community

The front page of The New York Times of 11 November 1938 refers to the attacks occurring "under the direction of Stormtroopers and Nazi party members," but also said that Goebbels called a stop to it.

Martin Sasse, Nazi Party member and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia, leading member of the Nazi German Christians, one of the schismatic factions of German Protestantism, published a compendium of Martin Luther's writings shortly after the Kristallnacht; Sasse "applauded the burning of the synagogues" and the coincidence of the day, writing in the introduction, "On 10 November 1938, on Luther's birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany." The German people, he urged, ought to heed these words "of the greatest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews."[57] Diarmaid MacCulloch argued that Luther's 1543 pamphlet, On the Jews and Their Lies was a "blueprint" for the Kristallnacht.[58]

[56] A Protestant parson spoke out in 1943 and was sent to Dachau concentration camp where he died after a few days.[56] paid the medical bills of a Jewish cancer patient and was sentenced to a large fine and several months in prison in 1941, and a Catholic nun was sentenced to death in 1945 for helping Jews.Parson Nevertheless, individuals continued to show courage, for example a [56] While individual Catholics and Protestants took action, the churches as a whole chose silence publicly.[56] There are many indications of Protestant and Catholic disapproval of racial persecution, for example the Catholic church had already distributed

To the consternation of the Nazis the Kristallnacht affected public opinion counter to their desires, the peak of opposition against the Nazi racial policies was reached just then, when according to almost all accounts the vast majority of Germans rejected the violence perpetrated against the Jews.[54] Verbal complaints grew rapidly in numbers, and for example the Duesseldorf branch of the Gestapo reported a sharp decline in anti-Semitic attitudes among the population.[55]

The US ambassador to Germany reported:

The vast majority of the German public disapproved of the Kristallnacht as for example evidenced by the torrent of reports attesting to this by diplomats in Germany.[52]

As it was aware that the German public did not support the Kristallnacht, the propaganda ministry directed the German press to portray opponents of racial persecution as disloyal.[49] The press was also under orders to downplay the Kristallnacht, describing general events at local level only, with prohibition against depictions of individual events.[50] In 1939 this was extended to a prohibition on reporting any anti-Jewish measures.[51]

In 1938, just after Kristallnacht, the psychologist Muller-Claudius interviewed 41 randomly selected Nazi Party members on their attitudes towards racial persecution. Of the interviewed party-members 63% percent expressed extreme indignation against it, while only 5% expressed approval of racial persecution, the rest being noncommittal. A study conducted in 1933 had then shown that 33% of Nazi Party members held no racial prejudice while 13% supported persecution; Sarah Ann Gordon sees two possible reasons for this difference: By 1938 large numbers of Germans had joined the Nazi Party for pragmatic reasons rather than ideology thus diluting the percentage of rabid antisemites, and the Kristallnacht could have caused party members to reject Antisemitism that had been acceptable to them in abstract terms but which they could not support when they saw it concretely enacted.[47] During the Kristallnacht several Gauleiter and deputy Gauleiters had refused orders to enact the Kristallnacht, and many leaders of the SA and of the Hitler Youth also openly refused party orders, while expressing disgust.[48] Some Nazis helped Jews during the Kristallnacht.[48]

In an article released for publication on the evening of 11 November, Goebbels ascribed the events of Kristallnacht to the "healthy instincts" of the German people. He went on to explain: "The German people is anti-Semitic. It has no desire to have its rights restricted or to be provoked in the future by parasites of the Jewish race."[45] Less than 24 hours after the Kristallnacht Adolf Hitler made a one hour long speech in front of a group of journalists where he managed to completely ignore the recent events on everyone's mind. According to Eugene Davidson the reason for this was that Hitler wished to avoid being directly connected to an event that he was aware that many of those present condemned, regardless of Goebbels's unconvincing explanation that Kristallnacht was caused by popular wrath.[46]

The reaction of non-Jewish Germans to Kristallnacht was varied. Many spectators gathered on the scenes, most of them in silence. The local fire departments confined themselves to prevent the flames spreading to neighbouring buildings. In Berlin, police Lieutenant Otto Bellgardt barred SA troopers from setting the New Synagogue on fire, earning his superior officer a verbal reprimand from the commissioner.[41] The British historian Martin Gilbert believes that "many non-Jews resented the round up",[42] his opinion being supported by German witness Dr. Arthur Flehinger who recalls seeing "people crying while watching from behind their curtains".[43] The extent of the damage was so great that many Germans are said to have expressed their disapproval of it, and to have described it as senseless.[44]

From the Germans

Responses to Kristallnacht

The number of emigrating Jews surged, as those who were able left the country. In the ten months following Kristallnacht, more than 115,000 Jews emigrated from the Reich.[39] The majority went to other European countries, the US and Palestine, and at least 14,000 made it to Shanghai, China. As part of government policy, the Nazis seized houses, shops, and other property the émigrés left behind. Many of the destroyed remains of Jewish property plundered during Kristallnacht were dumped near Brandenburg. In October 2008, this dumpsite was discovered by Yaron Svoray, an investigative journalist. The site, the size of four Association football fields, contained an extensive array of personal and ceremonial items looted during the riots against Jewish property and places of worship on the night of 9 November 1938. It is believed the goods were brought by rail to the outskirts of the village and dumped on designated land. Among the items found were glass bottles engraved with the Star of David, mezuzot, painted window sills, and the armrests of chairs found in synagogues, in addition to an ornamental swastika.[40]

The persecution and economic damage done to German Jews continued after the pogrom, even as their places of business were ransacked. They were forced to pay Judenvermögensabgabe, a collective fine of one billion marks for the murder of vom Rath (equal to roughly $US 5.5 billion in today’s currency), which was levied by the compulsory acquisition of 20% of all Jewish property by the state. Six million Reichsmarks of insurance payments for property damage due to the Jewish community were to be paid to the government instead as "damages to the German Nation".[38]

I have received a letter written on the Führer's orders requesting that the Jewish question be now, once and for all, coordinated and solved one way or another... 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.[37]

Hermann Göring met with other members of the Nazi leadership on 12 November to plan the next steps after the riot, setting the stage for formal government action. In the transcript of the meeting, Göring said,

Home movie from Vienna taken likely just after Kristallnacht in 1938.
A ruined synagogue in Eisenach after Kristallnacht
A ruined synagogue in Munich after Kristallnacht


The violence was officially called to a stop by Goebbels on 11 November, but it continued against the Jews in the concentration camps despite orders requesting "special treatment" to ensure that this did not happen. On 23 November, the News Chronicle of London published an article on an incident which took place at the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. Sixty-two Jews suffered punishment so severe that the police, "unable to bear their cries, turned their backs". They were beaten until they fell and, when they fell, they were further beaten. At the end of it, "twelve of the sixty-two were dead, their skulls smashed. The others were all unconscious. The eyes of some had been knocked out, their faces flattened and shapeless". The 30,000 Jewish men who had been imprisoned during Kristallnacht were released over the next three months but, by then, more than 2,000 had died.

Concentration camps

Houses of worship burned down, vandalized, in every community in the country where people either participate or watch.[36]

Historian Gerhard Weinberg is quoted as saying:

They ripped up the belongings, the books, knocked over furniture, shouted obscenities.[36]

TV channel briefly reported on a 2008 remembrance meeting at a local Jewish congregation. According to eye-witness Esther Harris:

Tucson News

Many Berliners were however deeply ashamed of the pogrom, and some took great personal risks to offer help. The son of a US consular official heard the janitor of his block cry:

The Daily Telegraph correspondent, Hugh Greene, wrote of events in Berlin:

After this, the Jewish community was fined 1 billion reichsmarks. In addition, it cost 4 million marks to repair the windows.[33] Events in recently annexed Austria were no less horrendous. Of the entire Kristallnacht, only the pogrom in Vienna was completed. Most of Vienna's 94 synagogues and prayer-houses were partially or totally destroyed. People were subjected to all manner of humiliations, including being forced to scrub the pavements whilst being tormented by their fellow Austrians, some of whom had been their friends and neighbours. Official figures released after the event by Reinhard Heydrich stated that 191 synagogues were destroyed, with 76 completely demolished; 100,000 Jews were arrested; three foreigners were arrested; 174 people were arrested for looting Jewish shops; and 815 Jewish businesses were destroyed.

The synagogues, some centuries old, were also victims of considerable violence and vandalism, with the tactics the Stormtroops practised on these and other sacred sites described as "approaching the ghoulish" by the United States Consul in Leipzig. Tombstones were uprooted and graves violated. Fires were lit, and prayer books, scrolls, artwork and philosophy texts were thrown upon them, and precious buildings were either burned or smashed until unrecognisable. Eric Lucas recalls the destruction of the synagogue that a tiny Jewish community had constructed in a small village only twelve years earlier:

This pogrom damaged, and in many cases destroyed, about 200 synagogues (constituting nearly all Germany had), many Jewish cemeteries, more than 7,000 Jewish shops, and 29 department stores. Some Jews were beaten to death while others were forced to watch. More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps; primarily Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen.[31] The treatment of prisoners in the camps was brutal, but most were released during the following three months on condition that they leave Germany. The number of German Jews killed is uncertain. The number killed in the two-day riot is most often cited as 91. In addition, it is thought that there were hundreds of suicides. Counting deaths in the concentration camps, around 2,000–2,500 deaths were directly or indirectly attributable to the Kristallnacht pogrom. A few non-Jewish Germans, mistaken for Jews, were also killed.

The SA shattered the storefronts of about 7,500 Jewish stores and businesses, hence the appellation Kristallnacht (Crystal Night).[30] Jewish homes were ransacked all throughout Germany. Although violence against Jews had not been explicitly condoned by the authorities, there were cases of Jews being beaten or assaulted.

Kristallnacht, shop damage in Magdeburg
Kristallnacht, example of physical damage

The timing of the riots varied from unit to unit. The Gauleiters started at about 10:30pm, only two hours after news of Vom Rath's death reached Germany. They were followed by the SA at 11pm, and the SS at around 1:20am. Most were wearing civilian clothes and were armed with sledgehammers and axes, and soon went to work on the destruction of Jewish property. The orders given to these men were very specific, however: no measures endangering non-Jewish German life or property were to be taken (synagogues too close to non-Jewish property were smashed rather than burned); Jewish businesses or dwellings could be destroyed but not looted; foreigners (even Jewish foreigners) were not to be the subjects of violence; and synagogue archives were to be transferred to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). The men were also ordered to arrest as many Jews as the local jails would hold, the preferred targets being healthy young men.


Some leading party officials disagreed with Goebbels' actions, fearing the diplomatic crisis it would provoke. Heinrich Himmler wrote, "I suppose that it is Goebbels's megalomania...and stupidity which are responsible for starting this operation now, in a particularly difficult diplomatic situation."[28] The Israeli historian Saul Friedländer believes that Goebbels had personal reasons for wanting to bring about Kristallnacht. Goebbels had recently suffered humiliation for the ineffectiveness of his propaganda campaign during the Sudeten crisis, and was in some disgrace over an affair with a Czech actress, Lída Baarová. Goebbels needed a chance to improve his standing in the eyes of Hitler. At 01:20 am on 10 November 1938, Reinhard Heydrich sent an urgent secret telegram to the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and the Sturmabteilung (SA), containing instructions regarding the riots. This included guidelines for the protection of foreigners and non-Jewish businesses and property. Police were instructed not to interfere with the riots unless the guidelines were violated. Police were also instructed to seize Jewish archives from synagogues and community offices, and to arrest and detain "healthy male Jews, who are not too old", for eventual transfer to (labor) concentration camps.[29]


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