On November 9, 1938, the Nazis set free a wave of pogroms against Germany's Jews. In the span of a few hours, thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed. This event came to be called Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") for the broken store windowpanes that carpeted German streets.Click to enlarge

     The cause for this violence was the November 7 assassination of a German diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, by Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish teenager whose parents, along with 17,000 other Polish Jews, had been recently banned from the Reich. Though portrayed as spontaneous outbursts of popular outrage, these pogroms were calculated acts of revenge carried out by the SA, SS, and local Nazi party organizations.

     Storm troopers killed at least 91 Jews and wounded many others. For the first time, Jews were arrested on a massive scale and transported to Nazi concentration camps. About 30,000 Jews were sent to Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen, where hundreds died within weeks of arrival. They were only let go if the prisoners arranged to emigrate and agreed to transfer their property to "Aryans."

     Kristallnacht culminated the increasing violence against Jews that began during the incorporation of Austria into the Reich in March 1938. 

    On November 9, 1938, Adolf Hitler attended a dinner party in Munich Germany honoring Nazi party heroes. At the dinner he learned that Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat was killed in Paris. Leaving the dinner, Hitler gave orders for a “night of terror throughout Germany, including German-annexed Austria and the Sudenland region of Czechoslovakia.

     During the nights of November 9-10 more than 90 Jews were killed and hundreds of synagogues and temples were set on fire. Throughout the two-day period over 7000 Jewish businesses were looted without interference by Click to enlargethe police. Furthermore, Jewish cemeteries were desecrated and over 30,000 Jewish men were placed under house arrest and sent to concentration camps in Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen.

     Noted as the worst pre-war program, the streets of Germany were filled with crushed glass from the synagogues and store windows, creating the name Kristallnacht or the “Night of Broken Glass.” When the night was over, the German Jewish community was ordered to pay repatriations to pay for the damage created by the acts of the Third Reich. Blamed for the destruction, the Jews were fined one billion Reichsmark, which is equal to $400,000,000 in United States currency.

     Protests exploded throughout the world surrounding Kristallnacht. In New York, protesters asked for an increase of existing boycotts of German goods and services. Demonstrations called for an end to “Hitler’s bloody pogroms.” In Chicago, protesters burned swastika flags. Franklin D. Roosevelt, shocked by the actions of Hitler’s Kristallnacht, declared his shock that such actions could occur in the 20th century and recalled the American ambassador from Germany. Sadly however, few Americans advocated for changing the immigration laws to increase quotas of Jewish immigrants from Europe.

     Hitler had no intention of being scared by the protests or the boycotts. On January 30, 1939 Hitler declared that Germany was at war and “the result will not be the bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the total destruction of the Jewish race of Europe.”



The evening of November 9, 1938 a well thought-out pogrom was let loose against Jews all over Germany. Synagogues were burned, businesses destroyed and Jews were pulled from their homes to be harassed, beaten, and murdered. The well-known event was named Kristallnacht referring to the huge number of shattered glass from Jewish shop windows that littered German cities and towns the next day. In the outcome, Nazi actions to completely eliminate Jews from German profitable life increased greatly. Thorough plans were put into action for eliminating Jewish businesses and property, limits of civil rights for Jews, and finally the deportation of all Jews to concentration camps.