Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass

The life of the German Jew became increasingly unbearable. Often assaulted and humiliated, their beards hacked off in public, made to do the dirtiest jobs, Jews were banned from more and more of German life. Prohibited from frequenting cafés, theatres, swimming pools and parks, Jews were driven out of towns that strove to be Judenfrei, Jew-free. Professional Jews were banned from practising, whether as lawyers, doctors or dentists.

The culmination of this offensive took place on the night of 9 November 1938, and was known as Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass. Goebbels, using the pretext that a Jew had killed a German embassy official in Paris, initiated the pogrom, endorsed from above and enthusiastically carried out throughout the country. Jewish homes, synagogues and schools were burnt down (pictured below); businesses looted and ransacked; thousands of Jews beaten up and nearly a hundred murdered. Twenty thousand Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps and a 1 billion Reichsmark fine imposed on the Jewish community to pay for the damage. International opinion was outraged but by now Hitler was confident enough to pay little attention to their protests.

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Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, 9–10 November 1938

More legislation was passed, prohibiting Jewish children from attending state schools and imposing strict curfews on movement. Speaking to the Reichstag in January 1939, Hitler was still referring back to the Jewish conspiracy that supposedly defeated Germany at the end of the First World War: ‘This day will be avenged,’ he said, adding that another world war would result in the ‘annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe’.

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