What Was Kristallnacht?

Kristallnacht is also referred to as “The night of the crystal” or “The night of broken glass”. The term is used to refer to the violent waves instigated against Jews throughout Germany, parts of the Sudetes and Austria annexed on November 9 and 10, 1938. The name Kristallnacht was adopted in reference to the shattered glass from Jewish houses, synagogues and companies that covered the roads of Germany in the wake of the pogrom. The waves of violence against Jews were mainly instigated by Nazi party officials, the Hitler Youth and the members of the SA ( Sturmabteilungen ).

Background for Kristallnacht

When Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, his leadership made laws that oppressed German Jews. Hitler’s policies have isolated and persecuted Jews. For example, companies belonging to Jews have been boycotted. Moreover, the Jews were expelled from all posts of public employees. In May 1933, the writings of Jews and all non-German authors were burned in a function at the Berlin Opera House. Two years later the rules became more oppressive when the Jews were no longer served to German companies. Before the Kristallnacht occurred, the policies were non-violent. However, on the night of Kristallnacht, there was a drastic change in events as policies became violent.

Kristallnacht, according to German officials, took place following public outrages against the murder of Ernst Vom Roth. Vom Roth, a German embassy official based in Paris, was struck by Herschel Gryznspan, a 17-year-old Polish Polish Jew. Before the assassination of Ernst Vom Roth, thousands of Polish Jews residing in Germany had been driven out of Reich, including Grynzspan’s parents. The agitated young man shot Vom Roth in retaliation for the expulsion of his parents from a land where they lived for years. Vom Roth died two days later from gunshot wounds after being shot. Adolf Hitler, the German chancellor, attended his funeral.

Effects of Kristallnacht

The Kristallnacht outrage began in the last hours of November 9, 1938. The crowds belonging to the Nazi party destroyed and vandalized the properties that belonged to German Jews such as hospitals, businesses, schools, synagogues and even cemeteries. German policemen and firefighters were ordered not to intervene unless the destruction involved property owned by Aryan. The Kristallnacht caused the killing of German Jews 100. Over 30,000 even Jewish men were arrested and sent Nazi concentration camps to Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen.

In November 15, 1938, the then American president, Franklin D Roosevelt, read a statement to the media condemning violence and anti-Semitism in Germany. He also summoned Hugh Wilson, who was his ambassador to Germany at the time. However, the United States has refused to abolish their immigration rules to allow those affected by Kristallnacht to seek refuge in their state. This fact is perhaps due to the fear that Nazi infiltrators could legally establish themselves in the United States, thus compromising security. Regardless, Kristallnacht served as a wake-up call for Jews in Germany that Nazi anti-Semitism would only deepen and many Jews began planning their escape from Germany.

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