Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht

A massive, coordinated attack on Jews throughout the German Reich on the night of November 9, 1938, into the next day, has come to be known as Kristallnacht or The Night of Broken Glass.

The attack came after Herschel Grynszpan, a 17 year old Jew living in Paris, shot and killed a member of the German Embassy staff there in retaliation for the poor treatment his father and his family suffered at the hands of the Nazis in Germany.

On October 27, Grynszpan's family and over 15,000 other Jews, originally from Poland, had been expelled from Germany without any warning. They were forcibly transported by train in boxcars then dumped at the Polish border.

For Adolf Hitler and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, the shooting in Paris provided an opportunity to incite Germans to "rise in bloody vengeance against the Jews."

On November 9, mob violence broke out as the regular German police stood by and crowds of spectators watched. Nazi storm troopers along with members of the SS and Hitler Youth beat and murdered Jews, broke into and wrecked Jewish homes, and brutalized Jewish women and children.

All over Germany, Austria and other Nazi controlled areas, Jewish shops and department stores had their windows smashed and contents destroyed. Synagogues were especially targeted for vandalism, including desecration of sacred Torah scrolls. Hundreds of synagogues were systematically burned while local fire departments stood by or simply prevented the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings.

About 25,000 Jewish men were rounded up and later sent to concentration camps where they were often brutalized by SS guards and in some cases randomly chosen to be beaten to death.

The reaction outside Germany to Kristallnacht was shock and outrage, creating a storm of negative publicity in newspapers and among radio commentators that served to isolate Hitler's Germany from the civilized nations and weaken any pro-Nazi sentiments in those countries. Shortly after Kristallnacht, the United States recalled its ambassador permanently.

In Germany, on November 12, top Nazis, including Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels, held a meeting concerning the economic impact of the damage and to discuss further measures to be taken against the Jews. SS leader Reinhard Heydrich reported 7500 businesses destroyed, 267 synagogues burned (with 177 totally destroyed) and 91 Jews killed.

Heydrich requested new decrees barring Jews from any contact with Germans by excluding them from public transportation, schools, even hospitals, essentially forcing them into ghettos or out of the country. Goebbels said the Jews would be made to clean out the debris from burned out synagogues which would then be turned into parking lots.

At this meeting it was decided to eliminate Jews entirely from economic life in the Reich by transferring all Jewish property and enterprises to 'Aryans,' with minor compensation given to the Jews in the form of bonds.

Regarding the economic impact of the damage from Kristallnacht and the resulting massive insurance claims, Hermann Göring stated the Jews themselves would be billed for the damage and that any insurance money due to them would be confiscated by the State.

"I shall close the meeting with these words," said Göring, "German Jewry shall, as punishment for their abominable crimes, et cetera, have to make a contribution for one billion marks. That will work. The swine won't commit another murder. Incidentally, I would like to say that I would not like to be a Jew in Germany."

Copyright © 1997 The History Place™ All Rights Reserved

Source: The History Place: World War II in Europe: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/knacht.htm

 

Kristallnacht turns out to be a crucial turning point in German policy regarding the Jews and may be considered as the actual beginning of what is now called the Holocaust.

  1. By now it is clear to Hitler and his top advisors that forced immigration of Jews out of the Reich is not a feasible option.
  2. Hitler is already considering the invasion of Poland.
  3. Numerous concentration camps and forced labor camps are already in operation.
  4. The Nuremberg Laws are in place.
  5. The doctrine of lebensraum has emerged as a guiding principle of Hitler's ideology. And,
  6. The passivity of the German people in the face of the events of Kristallnacht made it clear that the Nazis would encounter little opposition -- even from the German churches.

Following the meeting, a wide-ranging set of antisemitic laws were passed which had the clear intent, in Goering's words, of "Aryanizing" the German economy. Over the next two or three months, the following measures were put into effect (cf., Burleigh and Wippermann, The Racial State: Germany, 1933-1945. New York:Cambridge, 1991:92-96):

  1. Jews were required to turn over all precious metals to the government.
  2. Pensions for Jews dismissed from civil service jobs were arbitrarily reduced.
  3. Jewish-owned bonds, stocks, jewelry and art works can be alienated only to the German state.
  4. Jews were physically segregated within German towns.
  5. A ban on the Jewish ownership of carrier pigeons.
  6. The suspension of Jewish driver's licenses.
  7. The confiscation of Jewish-owned radios.
  8. A curfew to keep Jews of the streets between 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. in the summer and 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in the winter.
  9. Laws protecting tenants were made non-applicable to Jewish tenants.

One final note on the November 12 meeting is of critical importance. In the meeting, Goering announced, "I have received a letter written on the Fuehrer's orders requesting that the Jewish question be now, once and for all, coordinated and solved one way or another." The path to the "Final Solution" has now been chosen. And, all the bureaucratic mechanisms for its implementation were now in place.

Source: http://frank.mtsu.edu/~baustin/knacht.html

 

Orders to the Gestapo regarding Kristallnacht

From Heinrich Müller to all Gestapo offices - transmitted at 11:55 p.m., November 9, 1938:

1) Actions against Jews, especially against their synagogues, will take place throughout the Reich shortly. They are not to be interfered with; however, liaison is to be effected with the Ordnungspolizei to ensure that looting and other significant excesses are suppressed.

2) So far as important archive material exists in synagogues this is to be secured by immediate measures.

3) Preparations are to be made for the arrest of about 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in the Reich. Above all well-to-do Jews are to be selected. Detailed instructions will follow in the course of this night.

4) Should Jews in possession of weapons be encountered in the course of the action, the sharpest measures are to be taken. Verfugungstruppen der SS as well as general SS can be enlisted for all actions. Control of the actions is to be secured in every case through the Gestapo. Looting, larceny etc. is to be prevented in all cases. For securing material, contact is to be established immediately with the responsible SD...leadership. Addendum for Stapo Cologne: In the Cologne synagogue there is especially important material. This is to be secured by the quickest measures in conjunction with SD.

From Reinhard Heydrich to all Gestapo and SD district and subdistrict offices - transmitted at 1:20 a.m., November 10, 1938:

Concerning: measures against Jews in the present night.

On account of the assassination of the Leg. Sec. v. Rath in Paris, demonstrations against the Jews are to be expected throughout the Reich in the present night...

...the political leadership is to be informed that the German police have received the following instructions from the Reichsführer SS and Chief of Police, to which the measures of the political leadership should be adapted, appropriately:

a) Only such measures should be taken as will not endanger German life or property (i.e. synagogue burning only if there is no fire-danger to the surroundings).

b) Businesses and dwellings of Jews should only be destroyed, not plundered. The police are instructed to supervise this regulation and to arrest looters.

c) Special care is to be taken that in business streets non-Jewish businesses are absolutely secured against damage.

d) Foreign nationals - even if they are Jews - should not be molested...

5) Directly after the termination of the events of this night, the employment of the officials deployed [for the demonstrations] permitting, as many Jews - especially the well-off ones - are to be arrested as can be accommodated in the available prison space. Above all only healthy, male Jews, not too old, are to be arrested. Immediately after execution of the arrests contact is to be made with the appropriate concentration camp regarding the quickest committal of the Jews to the camp. Special care is to be taken that the Jews arrested on this order are not maltreated.

6) The content of this order is to be passed on to the responsible inspectors and commanders of the Ordnungspolizei and to the SD-Ober- and Unterabschnitten, with the rider that the Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German Police has ordered these measures...

Copyright © 1997 The History Place™ All Rights Reserved

Source: The History Place: World War II in Europe: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/knacht.htm

Alan's Departure and the Return of His Father

Alan's father and worker in the family business

While I was busy working in my father’s workshop right up to the Kristallnacht, all my friends, who had been out of school since April 1938, had been busy making plans to emigrate either with-or-without their parents.  My father was gone of course, so nothing along those lines was even being thought of by us, until his return.

My closest friends all left on the first children’s transport to England in December 1938 and I was in essence left without friends.  My mother, increasingly worried about my father’s prolonged absence, the lack of income and my future in this very hostile and restricted environment, began to urge me to do something about emigrating by myself, since she could not do so until my father was back.

Business card for the Pfeffer business

I remember standing in line to register for emigration to England via the children’s transports and to Palestine via the Jugend Alliyah.  I was of course, very much a latecomer in this process, there were thousands ahead of me and it was all pretty hopeless for a youngster without any connections in the Jewish community.

One of my close friends, who had settled in Oxford with a family, met one of the neighbors, who expressed an interest in helping someone like himself and he recommended me.  This person, not Jewish, had some very powerful connections, which included the Chair of the Board of British Jews.  She wrote him a note describing my particular plight and things began to happen.  All of this was unbeknownst to me or my mother.  In early May 1939, I was suddenly notified that I was to leave Vienna in one week’s time with the next children’s transport to England, my application had been advanced from the bottom of the pile to the top.  Later, much later, I have often wondered who was displaced by me.

My reaction to this news was one of absolute elation.  After six miserable months by the standards of those days, which were the only ones one knew, I was to be liberated.  I was greatly excited about going to England, where my friends had gone and frankly I had dreaded going to Palestine.  I was thinking of nobody but myself in my joy and anticipation.



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