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Kristallnacht/November Pogrom, Takes Place, 1938


On This Day in Jewish History, November 9, 1938,



A wave of violent anti-Jewish demonstrations broke out throughout Germany, Austria, and part of Czechoslovakia, all of which were occupied by Nazi German troops. These pogroms, collectively termed Kristallnacht or “Night of Crystal,” resulted in mass destruction of Jewish property, including synagogues, stores, and homes. Hundreds of Jews, many of whom were sent to concentration camps, died due to injury or suicide in the aftermath. .


The pogrom erupted in "response" to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris. A Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan, also living in Paris at the time, shot Vom Rath on November 7th. This appeared to be an act of revenge, for German authorities had just recently expelled all Polish Jews living in Germany, including Grynszpan’s parents. These Jews were stranded in a refugee camp outside the border between their homeland and new country of residence, denied re-entry into either. On November 9th, Vom Rath officially passed, and an outcry erupted. [1]


The Nazis used Vom Rath’s death as justification to launch a slew of antisemitic attacks against Jews throughout Germany, Austria, and Sudetenland. However, rather than organizing the demonstrations, party leaders opted to let them appear spontaneous to the public. So they did, and across the entire region, Hitler Youth and the Sturmabteilungen (SA) together engaged in destruction of Jewish property. Rioters were given only a few orders by Nazi leaders, one of which was to arrest as many Jews as possible. By the end of the pogrom, nearly 30,000 Jewish males had been locked up and sent away to concentration camps. [2] Fire was set to hundreds of synagogues, which were permitted to burn endlessly unless the fire started to spread to non-Jewish Germans’ property. An estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and destroyed. Jewish cemeteries were heavily vandalized. Berlin and Vienna, the two largest Jewish communities under Nazi control, saw the worst of the attacks, with mobs of rioters roaming the streets and leaving complete devastation in their wake.


Kristallnacht resulted in the first of many waves of Jews who were persecuted because of Nazi hatred. In the aftermath, German leaders placed the blame on the Jews for their fate and proceeded to introduce a series of measures that would banish Jewish influence in the region, especially within the economy. German Jews were prohibited from most professions, education, and even personal transportation. They were also segregated from recreational facilities. These steps culminated in the following years with the Nazi mission to free Germany completely of Jews - the outrageous events that resulted in the Holocaust.

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