Night of Broken Glass ~ Background

Objectives: To look into the key events leading up tothe Second World War as time permits. To try to convey the history of the 2nd World War in a concise and easy - to - read way as possible and how such War Crimes came about and the persons responsible for those War Crimes.

Kristallnacht: History

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Kristallnacht ~ Night of Broken Glass

  • Source: Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust

    On 7 November 1938 Ernst von Rath, a German embassy official in Paris was shot (and mortally wounded) by a 17-year-old Polish Jew in response to the mistreatment of his parents and the thousands of other Polish Jews in Germany. Goebbels, hoping to get back into Hitler's good graces after a scandalous affair with a Czech film star, ensured that the German press waxed indignant over the shooting. This nationwide press campaign helped stir up trouble and on 8-9 November Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked by gangs of Nazis, acting largely on their own initiative and without specific instructions from above.

    Interestingly, Hitler made no mention of the Paris shooting in his annual speech at the Burgerbraukeller in Munich on 8 November. The next day, however, Rath died of his wounds. News of his death reached Hitler at around 9 p.m. during the traditional 'Old Fighters' dinner held in the Munich town hall to commemorate the 1923 Putsch. An intense conversation immediately took place between Hitler and Goebbels, who was seated next to him. Hitler left soon after, without giving his usual speech. Goebbels spoke instead, delivering a bitter attack on the Jews and calling for Rath's death to be avenged. Making it clear that Hitler would not oppose 'spontaneous demonstrations' of the type that had already occurred, he left senior Nazis in no doubt about what was expected of them. After Goebbels had finished speaking. Party leaders immediately set about giving instructions via telephone and telegram to their subordinate organisations. Himmler was not present to hear Goebbels' speech with the result that the SS was not greatly involved in the operation which followed.

    Kristallnacht
    Kristallnacht

    The violence on 9-10 November (Kristallnacht or the 'Night of Broken Glass'), orchestrated by Party activists (especially the SA), was much greater than the previous night. In some places, Nazi members acted alone. But elsewhere, ordinary Germans joined in the pogrom and the looting which accompanied it. Overnight close to 8,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed, 200 synagogues burned, hundreds of Jews beaten up and over 90 killed. Neither the fire brigade nor the police intervened to prevent the violence and destruction. That night and over the next few days some 30,000 Jewish men were herded into concentration camps. Most were later released but only in exchange for written promises to leave Germany.

    On 21 November, the American consul in Leipzig prepared a detailed statement on the events. This is part of his report:

      The shattering of shop windows, looting of stores and dwellings of Jews which began in the early hours of 10 November 1938, was hailed subsequently in the Nazi press as a 'spontaneous wave of righteous indignation throughout Germany'. ... So far as a very high percentage of the German populace is concerned, a state of popular indignation that would spontaneously lead to such excesses can be considered as nonexistent. On the contrary ... all of the local crowds observed were furiously benumbed over what had happened and aghast over the unprecedented fury of Nazi acts that had been or were taking place with bewildering rapidity throughout their city...

      At 3 a.m. on 10 November 1938 was unleashed a barrage of Nazi ferocity as had had no equal hitherto in Germany, or very likely anywhere else in the world since savagery began. Jewish buildings were smashed into and contents demolished or looted. In one of the Jewish sections an 18-year-old boy was hurled from a three-storey window to land with both legs broken on a street littered with burning beds and other household furniture and effects from his family's and other apartments. This information was supplied by an attending physician ...Although apparently centred in poorer districts, the raid was not confined to the humbler classes. One apartment of exceptionally refined occupants ... was violently ransacked, presumably in search for valuables...

      According to reliable testimony, the debacle was executed by SS men and Stormtroopers not in uniform, each group having been provided with hammers, axes, crossbars and incendiary bombs.

    Hitler seems to have been surprised by the extent of the pogrom. Goering, like many Germans, was horrified by the damage to property and worried about the potential economic effects. Himmler was highly critical of the undisciplined behaviour of the SA. A British official in Berlin claimed that he had not met 'a single German from any walk of life who does not disapprove to some degree of what has occurred'. Not surprisingly, international opinion strongly condemned the violence. Goebbels' claim that Kristallnacht was a 'spontaneous' demonstration was dismissed as a crude lie. The Times spoke for most foreign opinion when it referred to the pogrom as 'an act of the Reich government'.

    Kristallnacht
    Kristallnacht

    But few ordinary Germans spoke out against Kristallnacht. No doubt this was partly because it was increasingly dangerous to do so. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that large numbers of Germans were not opposed to the maltreatment of Jews. (Even leading Catholic and Protestant bishops did not condemn Kristallnacht.) Moreover, Kristallnacht had indicated that some Germans were delighted to kill Jews.

    On 12 November Goering chaired an important inter-ministerial meeting to determine the implications of Kristallnacht and to plan future Jewish policy. Goebbels, Heydrich, economic, finance and foreign ministry officials, and insurance companies' representatives, were present. Goering began as follows:

      Gentlemen! Today's meeting is of a decisive character. I have received a letter written on the Fuhrer's orders ... requesting that the Jewish question be now, once and for all, co-ordinated and solved one way or another. And yesterday once again the Fuhrer requested me on the phone to take co-ordinated action in the matter ... I would not wish there to remain any doubt, gentlemen, as to the purpose of today's meeting. We have not come together simply for more talk but to make decisions, and I implore the competent agencies to take all measures to eliminate the Jew from the German economy and to submit the measures to me, so far as it is necessary.

    A number of important actions followed this meeting. Blaming the Jews for Kristallnacht, the government seized the money the insurance companies were paying out for the damage inflicted on Jewish property. In addition, the Jewish community was forced to pay a collective fine of 1,000 million marks as compensation for the murder of Rath. (Needless to say, no German was ever prosecuted for arson, destruction of property or murder.)

    Kristallnacht
    Kristallnacht

    Perhaps the most decisive measure taken on 12 November was the Decree Excluding Jews from German Economic Life. This formalised the extensive 'Aryanisation' of Jewish-owned property which had begun in the autumn of 1937. Goering announced that from 1 January 1939, all Jews were forbidden to undertake any form of independent business activity, from wholesale trade to corner shops. This law, plus a number of supplementary decrees, brought to an end any type of professional activity on the part of Jews which required contact with the Aryan world.

    The 12 November meeting did not just concern itself with the economic situation. Goebbels demanded that Jews and Germans should be segregated in every sphere of life. Some two weeks later Himmler issued a tough police decree effectively banning Jews from visiting theatres, cinemas, concerts, exhibitions, cabarets and circuses. Hitler rejected the most radical proposals: Jews did not yet have to wear a distinctive badge and they were still to have access to public transport. However, over the winter of 1938-9, laws against Jews kept on appearing. The last Jews were driven from German schools and universities. Jews were forced to hand over their driving licences. They were not allowed to use sports grounds or public swimming baths. They were even prohibited from keeping homing pigeons!

    Goering officially confirmed his claim to sole competence for the Jewish question in a letter to all government departments in December 1938. His authority, however, was being increasingly challenged by the SS, particularly as a result of a new emigration initiative, which resulted in part from Kristallnacht.

    Kristallnacht
    Kristallnacht

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    Kristallnacht: History

    Adolf Hitler >> Heinrich Himmler >> Josef Goebbels >> Triumph of the Will >> Triumph of the Will 2 Dvd >> Leni Riefenstahl >> Rudolf Hess >> Martin Bormann >> Herman Goering >> Who Helped Hermann Goering Escape The Hangman? >> Josef Mengele >> Adolf Eichman >> Irma Grese

    Kristallnacht >> The Final Solution >> Auschwitz >> Nuremberg Party Rallies

    Daily Mail - 2nd May 1945 >> Daily Mail - 3rd May 1945 >> Daily Mail - VE Day - It's All Over >> Scans added of the best books of Germany during the war and after incl. definitive guide on The Nuremberg Rallies - Smartphone Page >> Best 2nd World War Book Scans Added >> British War Dvds

    Advertise >> 2nd World War Dvds & Books available @ amazon.com

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