World War II |

Nazis Commence Kristallnacht – 11/9/1938

 It was on November 9th of 1938 gave birth to an event that would launch what would be known as the Holocaust of Jewish people throughout the world. Nazis German’s create a campaign of terror where they singled out people of Jewish descent, their businesses and their dwellings in Austria and Germany. The horrific violence that occurred and continued throughout the next day was later officially named “Kirstallnacht,” which means “Night of Broken Glass.” 

The name was appropriate due to the large number of broken windows of establishments owned by Jewish people, roughly 100 Jews were left for dead, a total of 7,500 businesses of Jewish-owned were damaged and hundreds of graveyards, synagogues, schools and homes ended up being vandalized. Shockingly, an estimated number of 30,000 men of Jewish-faith ended up being arrested. Then, a large amount of them were tragically placed in concentration camps for several months until they were released; however, each had to promise they would have to Germany. This event was the creation of Adolf Hitler and escalated his plan that started in 1933 to force the Jewish population out of Germany and was the year he became chancellor.

The Nazis were able to use the murder of a low-level German diplomat that was in Paris that was committed by a Polish Jew that was only 17-years-old as the catalyst for the attacks on Kristallnacht. Two days prior to the infamous attacks, Ernst vom Rath was shot while outside the German embassy by a young man named Herschel Grynszpan because he craved vengeance due to his parents being forced to leave Germany and having to go to Poland. Also, it was due to tens of thousands of other Jews that were Polish being forced to leave Germany.

Joseph Goebbels, who was a Nazi propaganda minister, used vom Rath’s murder to their advantage by carrying out destructive riots by “spontaneous demonstrations” that were committed by disguised storm troopers against Jewish people. Adding to the mayhem was the fact that fire departments and local police were told to look away and not to offer assistance. Sadly, some Jewish people, who included whole families, committed suicide as a result of the destruction that happened.

The Nazis accused their Jewish citizens for the aftermath caused by Kristallnacht and were told to pay 1 billion marks (the 1938 equivalent of $400 million dollars) for the diplomat’s murder. The government used as payment insurance money belonging to Jewish citizens as well as seized property. The Nazi government carried out more policies of discrimination that basically isolated Jews from public life; this was done in an attempt to give birth to a master Aryan race. Kristallnacht also led to over 100,000 thousand Jewish people fleeing from Germany to other safer countries. Although other countries expressed their condemnation for what happened on those two destructive days, the worst thing that happened was the breaking of diplomatic relations with Germany. Since the Nazis had not suffered anything harmful to their cause, this led them to think there would be no repercussions for committing mass murder on a scale of approximately 6 million European Jews dying and would be later known as the Holocaust. 

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.