Culture History

Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass.

Jewish communities throughout Germany were subjected to a night of terror, eighty years ago today, when Nazi thugs went on an organised rampage, destroying Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues. The horrifying event would forever be known as the Kristallnancht, or ‘the night of Broken Glass’ because of the huge amount of glass smashed during the terror.

The attack on Jewish property and lives was instigated by Joseph Goebbels, Nazi minister of propaganda and SS commander, Reinhard Heydrich, as revenge for the shooting in Paris of a German diplomat, by a young Polish Jew on the 7th of November. Within hours of the assassination, orders were sent out to all SS headquarters and police stations, which laid out the plan for the attack.

The exercise in terror on the night of the 9th of November 1938 saw many respectable ‘middle class’ Germans cheer and clap, as Jews were beaten and their properties looted by thugs. In total 36 people were killed (arguably many more) with some estimates of 20,000 and 30,000 Jewish arrests, of which thousands were sent to concentration camps. In all more than 7,000 business were looted and over 250 synagogues burnt to the ground.

The extent of the destruction was so big that insurances companies teetered on the verge of collapse at the thought of paying out for rebuilding and repairs. In a sickening twist, Goering came up with a solution to confiscate insurance payouts and return them to insurance companies. Goering unapologetically made the unsavoury comment, “they should have killed more Jews and broken less glass”.

Many historians point to the events of the Night of the Broken Glass, as the turning point in relations between Nazi Germany and the rest of the world. In short, the world’s reaction to condemn the actions of the Nazi regime at the time was indeed quick. Hitler though, was completely undeterred by their reaction, pointing out his fears of a ‘Jewish world conspiracy’ were justified.

Photo credits: The header image of the shop front damage in Magdeburg, Germany during the Kristallnancht, is courtesy of the German Federal Archive, and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany license.

Robert Horvat is a Melbourne based blogger. He believes that the world is round and that art is one of our most important treasures. He has seen far too many classic films and believes coffee runs through his veins. As a student of history, he favours ancient and medieval history. Music pretty much rules his life and inspires his moods. Favourite artists include The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Garbage and Lana Del Rey.

2 comments on “Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass.

  1. What bothers me is that so many people did not choose to leave those countries when they could. They had hopes that it wouldn’t get as bad as it did. When this kind of thing starts many times it will not get any better!

  2. First of all, this is beautifully written. But I have to say that Germans and Nazis aren’t the same. Many Germans had no clue what was going on, others were afraid. You couldn’t say anything if you wanted to live. And last but not least I agree that it was terrible, however I really hope that history won’t be repeated.

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