Kristallnacht: Vowing never to forget the night of broken glass

Black-and-white photo of destroyed Munich synagogue

The Ohel Yaakov Synagogue in Munich, destroyed after Kristallnacht. Photo released by collection owner, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY-TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 9-10: On the night of November 9, 1938, Jews in Germany and Austria were terrorized by mobs breaking glass. Today, the world marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, a tragic milestone in the unfolding of the Holocaust.

In just one night, SA stormtroopers accompanied by countless civilians burned hundreds of Jewish synagogues—defaced thousands more—and broke the windows of Jewish businesses. Hammers and stones in hand, the attackers went into a frenzy of running Jews out of their homes and businesses, smashing windows and arresting tens of thousands of men who would be sent to concentration camps. (Wikipedia has more.)

U.S. publications reported on Kristallnacht. Under a headline “A Black Day for Germany,” The New York Times reported: “No foreign propagandist … could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”

The isolation of Jews in Germany had already been in the works for several years prior to Kristallnacht: When Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933, he immediately began to set in motion anti-Jewish policies. Hitler and his regime began publicly blaming Jews for Germany’s loss in WWI and for Germany’s economic hardships. Slowly, Jews found their rights taken away, without the ability to earn a living, attain an education, work in civil service or even marry a non-Jewish German.

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

Kristallnacht broken window

Click on the image to visit a USHMM educational website on Kristallnacht.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum offers extensive resources for individuals, families, teachers and community groups planning events.

Check community listings in your part of the world for events marking Kristallnacht. Jewish communities and many educational institutions in urban areas across Canada and the U.S. have something planned to remember this anniversary.

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