Kristallnacht: November 9-10

What happened on that night?

That night in Germany, thousands upon thousands of Jews were subject to terror and violence by the Nazis. Over 1,000 Jewish synagogues and over 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, and approximately 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps. The name, “Night of Broken Glass,” comes from all of the shattered glass windowpanes that littered the streets of Germany after the destruction. The assassination of von Rath and the events of this night were exploited and manipulated by the Nazis to begin the total annihilation of the Jews in Europe.

Dots represent cities where synagogues were destroyed. Because of map scale, not all cities affected by Kristallnacht can be shown or labeled. -USHMM

Caption: (Left):  Exterior view of the old synagogue in Aachen, built in 1862-USHMM, courtesy of Stadtarchiv Aachen; (Center):The “Weinberg Torah,” (bottom of picture) currently held by the Skirball Museum, was sent for repairs just days before the destruction of Kristallnacht of November 9, 1938. Because of this fortunate coincidence, it survived the Holocaust in safety and was delivered to its owner, Werner Weinberg, unscathed. The scroll was commissioned by his great-grandfather in 1845 and was used for generations in the synagogue of Rheda, a small town in Westphalia, Germany, whose synagogue was burnt to the ground in 1938 during Kristallnacht. Compared to the loss, destruction, and death represented by the destroyed Torahs shown at the top of the above picture and in the picture below, the Weinberg Torah represents hope, life, and overcoming odds. It is a gift to have this Torah with us today, a symbol of survival.
– Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education; (Right):
View of the old synagogue in Aachen after its destruction on Kristallnacht.
-USHMM, courtesy of Stadtarchiv Aachen

The Orders

Goebbels addressed the crowd at the Nazi gathering in Munich, inciting Party leadership and getting the Nazis ready for action. Heydrich, another Party official, then issued orders to all the state police, giving them instructions as to how the night of “spontaneous” violence would go. He ordered the police to prevent looting, to stop any non-Jews or their property from being harmed, and to arrest as many able-bodied male Jews as possible. This began the events of Kristallnacht and the first major imprisonment and deportation of Jews to concentration camps.

A pile of Hebrew prayer books and other Jewish religious texts damaged by fire at the synagogue in Bobenhausen during Kristallnacht. -USHMM, courtesy of Jewish Community of Giessen

The Consequences

As a result of this night of violence, over 1,000 synagogues and over 7,000 Jewish businesses in Germany were destroyed. About one hundred Jews were killed, but thousands were subjected to torment and violence. About 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to the concentration camps Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen. Even more anti-Jewish legislation was also set in place:

Caption: (Center): View of the destroyed interior of the Hechingen synagogue the day after Kristallnacht.
-USHMM, courtesy of Dr. Adolf Vees; (Right): Interior of the Zerrennerstrasse synagogue after its destruction on Kristallnacht. -USHMM, courtesy of Stadtarchiv Pforzheim
(Left): On the morning after Kristallnacht local residents watch as the Ober Ramstadt synagogue is destroyed by fire. The local fire department prevented the fire from spreading to a nearby home, but did not try to limit the damage to the synagogue.
-USHMM, courtesy of Trudy Isenberg;

Hitler and the Nazis irrationally manipulated these events to give them an excuse to attempt the total annihilation of the Jews. The events of Kristallnacht eventually led to the plans for the Four-Year Plan and the steps to the Final Solution.