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KRISTALLNACHT - "Night Of Broken Glass"

What does the word "Kristallnacht" mean?

"Kristallnacht" is a German word that consists of two parts: "Kristall" translates to "crystal" and refers to the look of broken glass and "Nacht" means "night." The accepted English translation is the "Night of Broken Glass."

One of the many Jewish shops that were destroyed

What Happened That Night

On November 9, 1938, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels announced a government-sanctioned reprisal against the Jews. Synagogues were ravaged and then burned. Jewish shop windows were broken. Jews were beaten, raped, arrested, and murdered. Throughout Germany and Austria, the pogrom rampaged.

Police and firefighters stood by as synagogues burned and Jews were beaten, only taking action to prevent the spread of fire to non-Jew owned property and to stop looters - upon SS officer Reinhard Heydrich's orders.

The pogrom spanned the night of November 9 to 10. During this night 191 synagogues were set on fire.

The damage to shop windows was estimated at $4 million U.S. dollars. 91 Jews were murdered while 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to camps such as Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald.
German policemen escort Jews to Dachau on November 10, 1938

What Sparked Off The Kristallnacht?

By 1938, the Nazi's had been in power for five years and were hard at work trying to rid Germany of its Jews, attempting to make Germany "Judenfrei" (Jew free). Approximately 50,000 of the Jews living within Germany in 1938 were Polish Jews. The Nazis wanted to force the Polish Jews to move back to Poland, but Poland did not want these Jews either.

On October 28, 1938, the Gestapo rounded up the Polish Jews within Germany, put them on transports, and then dropped them off on the Polish side of the Poland-Germany border (near Posen). With little food, water, clothing, or shelter in the middle of winter, thousands of these people died.

Among these Polish Jews were the parents of seventeen year old Hershl Grynszpan. At the time of the transports, Hershl was in France studying. On November 7, 1938, Hershl shot Ernst vom Rath, the third secretary in the German embassy in Paris. Two days later, vom Rath died. The day vom Rath died, Goebbels announced the need for retaliation. 


This is how the New York Times reported it


At first I was just glad that we had survived, but when I realised that I had no dresses, no coat, and to cap it all not even a stitch of underwear any more, then I thought again that my heart would break. So that you don’t think I’m exaggerating, let me tell you that when the doctor came to bandage Papa, Rosa and Herta, all three of them bleeding copiously from head wounds, we couldn’t give him a towel or any piece of cloth to wipe the blood off his hands, so he had to leave. My poor heart had to take in the fact that the place was so full of fragments and splinters, because all the glasses, windows and mirrors had been smashed, that we didn’t know where to turn. The day after, we were sent two shirts to put on, one for me and one for Papa. I can’t tell you how many tears I shed, we are destitute, we don’t even have the most basic clothing, we can’t even go out into the street; in any case I have no desire to do so! But even that was not enough; two days later we were told that I had to make room at once and accommodate two more families in my flat; furthermore, I was to be ready within 3 hours. What could I do but get up and take everything from the bedroom into the dining room, and the two families, Frau Kramer with two children and Frau Terner with one child and a sick mother, moved in with me, You cannot imagine what things look like here.


The mob can be seen everywhere, looking happy; after all, they have accomplished a great feat. Families have had their homes stolen. 16 people crammed into one small room, to live in that state for three days. Everything the Jews had in the way of money and jewellery was taken away. People did not shrink from taking the earrings from the ears of small children, or the last coin from women’s handbags. Those of my acquaintances who managed to get released from the prison could not say enough about the suffering they had had to endure; although they had been front-line soldiers in the Great War, they unanimously agreed that they had never seen such horrors. In a cellar in which the Jews were imprisoned, the following took place:
Women aged between 50 -55 were made to strip naked and dance for the men imprisoned with them; the dance was demonstrated to them by the SA. Sick women were obliged to answer the call of nature in public, in front of men and children, as there was only one WC for 200 people. Children between the ages of one month to two years received nothing to eat for two days, as they were imprisoned with their parents.

Siegen, Germany: One of many synagogues that were destroyed that night


* Nov. 7:  

9:30am: Grynszpan shoots diplomat in Paris
evening: violence in Kassel and Hannover

* Nov. 8:

sporadic violence in Germany

* Nov. 9

o 7pm: commemorative dinner in Munich city hall 9pm: news of diplomat's death to Hitler
o 10pm: Hitler leaves, Goebbels speaks
o 11pm-midnight: SA leaders make phone calls
o midnight: Himmler swears in SS recruits

* Nov 10, 1938:

o 12:30am: Graz (Austria) synagogue blown up
o 1:20am: Heydrich (SS): protect neighboring property
o 2-4am: first synagogue fires in Germany proper
o 9:15am-1:30pm: destruction of synagogue in Vienna
o 7pm-10pm: first 3 major synagogue fires in Hamburg
Most destruction happened on this day

* Nov. 11: 

o within a few days: 30,000 men and boys arrested
o by and large, the German populace remained passive, watching, but not intervening
o see map, below, as well as personal story of the professor's great-grandfather, also below
o most released within 3 months, to emigrate

* Nov. 12: 

spectators watch arrested Jews marching by in BadenGoering presides over cabinet meeting; 4 goals:
1. Complete process of "Aryanization"
2. Accelerate emigration
3. Complete isolation of Jews from populace
4. Abolish Jewish self-organization

* Dec. 6: 
 Goering's address to Gauleiters

* Dec. 28: 

 New rules announced by Goering
Jews being humiliated in the city square. Many of the Germans in the crowd found it funny. Six years later they were crying too (provided they escaped the destruction of the country)

The bad guys at the Gestapo headquarters. The big chief Hitler is not in the picture though.

Jewish shops were destroyed

A week later, Jews in Baden-Baden were rounded up by the German police and sent to concentration camps. The German folks just watched.

Jews arrested by the SS in Baden Baden


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The aim of individuals in any society is money and power. Societies that give equal chance to all its members to get them will be the most stable. That is why democracies are more stable than other systems of governance.

China after Deng's reform gave the chance to get rich but power is in the hands of an elite; the Communist Party of China. Membership to the party is at the whims of the local party bosses. This leaves out many people who crave political power dissatisfied and disgruntled. There in lies the roots of instability. The Party suppressed these demands once at Tiananmen in 1989. But force is hardly the way to deal with things like these.

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