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What happened during Kristallnacht

what happened in kristallnacht

The Night of Broken Glass (Reichskristallnacht in German, literally Reich Crystal Night, also known as Reichspogromnacht or Novemberpogrome, November Pogrom) was a pogrom organized by the SS in Nazi Germany against the Jewish population, which considered the cause of all the problems of the Germans.

On the night of 9 to 10 November 1938, 300 synagogues caught fire and were destroyed, desecrated cemeteries were destroyed too, also industries and businesses, and  between twenty-five and thirty thousand people were injured, killing more than 90.

What happened during kristallnacht: events

Previous events

In 30 years, many Jews of Polish origin living in Germany. Friday 28 October 1938, 20,000 of them were kidnapped in the middle of the night and brutally deported en masse of Nazi Germany in Poland. The Polish government refused to admit them, causing a tough back and forth between German and Polish border for days. This refusal of leave to enter their own citizens, turned the camp expelled Jews in no man’s land on the border between the two nations in inhumane conditions impossible to imagine. Finally, the German authorities were convinced that the Polish government to let go.

Many of the expelled Jews had resided in Germany most of their lives; some had even been honored as veterans of the First World War. Herschel Grynszpan, a German Jew who had escaped to France, had received a letter from his family describing the horrible conditions they experienced during this deportation. Trying to improve their situation, repeatedly appealed during the days of Ernst vom Rath, secretary of the German Embassy in France (Paris), who apparently had no intention of helping. On Monday, November 7, Grynszpan shot von Rath. He died on the evening of November 9, consequences of wounds.


The murder of Ernst vom Rath served as a pretext to launch a revolt against Jewish citizens around the country. The attack was intended to look like a spontaneous act but was in fact orchestrated by the German government. This meant that the command of the NSDAP (National Socialist Party) were either agree and, as he so often did, the government used the party organization on the part of government authority. These altercations damaged and destroyed, about 1574 synagogues (there were virtually all in Germany), many Jewish cemeteries, more than 7,000 Jewish stores and 29 stores. More than 30,000 Jews were arrested and interned in concentration camps; some were even beaten to death. The number of German Jews killed is uncertain, with estimates of between approximately 36 to 200 people over two days of rises. The death toll is likely to 91. This indiscriminate violence explains that some Germans who were not Jews were murdered simply because someone thought that “looked Jewish.”


The events in Austria were no less terrible, and most of the 94 synagogues in Vienna and prayer houses were partially or completely damaged. People were subjected to all manner of humiliations, including scrubbing pavements while being tormented by the Austrians, some of whom had been their friends and neighbors.

nytimes cover during kristallnacht

New York times cover from November 11, 1938

Response from the outside

The terrible event was broadcast worldwide. This discredited Nazi movements in Europe and North America, causing a decline. Many newspapers condemned the incident, comparing it with the wild riots provoked by Imperial Russia in the 1880s the United States withdrew its ambassador (but did not close diplomatic relations) while other governments cut directly diplomatic relations with Germany as a protest.

[blockquote author=”Hermann Goering” pull=”normal”]The Jewish citizens of Germany, as punishment for their heinous crimes must face a fine of one billion marks. Incidentally, I must admit that I was not a Jew in Germany.[/blockquote]


The persecution and economic damage caused to German Jews did not stop the altercation, though their businesses had been looted. They were also forced to pay a collective fine of one billion marks to the Nazi government. This was hypocrisy. The New York Times had photographic evidence showing that the Nazis were at least partly responsible, although we now know that was approved personally by Adolf Hitler, and even Hitler himself was involved in the planning. It was a form of collective punishment, later complained to the Geneva Convention.

During the announcement of the sanction, the Nazi leader Hermann Goering, who had insisted long before taking action against the Jews had unwittingly described the reality of that event:

“The Jewish citizens of Germany, as punishment for their heinous crimes must face a fine of one billion marks. Incidentally, I must admit that I was not a Jew in Germany. »
– Hermann Goering
That night began a new phase of anti-Semitic activities of the Nazi Party and state apparatus, leading to the deportation and finally the extermination of most of the Jews who lived in Germany. Although few people knew it then, what happened during Kristallnacht was the first step in the systematic persecution and mass murder of Jews everywhere in Europe in what was then known as the Holocaust.