On November 9th 1938, Europe bore witness to some of the most callous acts of discriminatory violence in modern history; Violence and destruction that acts as a glimpse into the horror that would follow across Europe.
‘Kristallnacht‘ or ‘Night of Broken Glass‘ is an event in pre-war Nazi Germany that heralds the beginning of a dark era in European history, one that would result in millions of deaths, and genocide on an industrial scale.
After Adolf Hitler had vowed to ‘purge’ Germany of its Jewish population in 1933, Anti-Semitic sentiment had been brewing consistently among the population, and it was all fully endorsed by the administration.
On November 7th, German diplomat Ernst vom Rath was assassinated by Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew; This gave the regime the perfect excuse to carry out the Kristallnacht violence.
Supported by the state – and ordered by Josef Goebbels – German troops began carrying out systematic attacks on Jewish owned businesses and places of worship. Local emergency services were also ordered to stand down and ignore the plight of Jews.
The violence that follows is devastating. Over 100 dead, and over 7,000 businesses, synagogues and homes damaged and/or destroyed. In addition to deaths and property damage, 30,000+ Jewish men were arrested and interned in concentration camps. Only to be released on the condition that they leave Germany.
The aftermath of the Kristallnacht pogrom was equally as insulting and barbaric. The Nazis blamed the Jewish population, and demanded reparations of one billion marks for the death of Vom Rath. Insurance payments for the damage of Jewish owned properties were also seized.
Kristallnacht would see over 100,000 Jews flee Germany and some nations cut diplomatic ties. The international community was outraged at such callous acts of violence against a nations’ own citizens. This was not the end however, the Nazi regime would go on to introduce further discriminatory and exclusionary laws, effectively separating German Jews from society.
Hitler’s ‘Jewish Problem’ would persist, and some three years later plans were created for the Final Solution; A plan that would result in over six million deaths.