Kristallnacht 1938: Remembering the Pogrom That Marked a Dark Turn in Nazi Germany’s Treatment of Jews

The night of November 9th to 10th, 1938, stands as a dark chapter in the history of Nazi Germany, known as Kristallnacht or the Crystal Night. This extensive pogrom marked a horrific turning point, as violence against Jews erupted across Nazi Germany, including Austria and the recently annexed Sudetenland.

The catalyst for this widespread racial violence was the assassination of German diplomat Ernst von Rath in Paris by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Jewish youth seeking revenge for the expulsion of his family to the Polish border by the German government. Nazi propaganda seized upon Grynszpan’s act to fuel anti-Semitic sentiments, with newspapers publishing hate-filled articles inciting violence against Jews.

The violent actions commenced around 11 PM on November 9th and continued until the following day’s afternoon, impacting not only Germany but also Austria and the German-occupied former Czech borderlands. Approximately 35 synagogues were set ablaze in the former Czechoslovakia.

Despite widespread destruction, some synagogues managed to survive. The temple in Zatec was spared as it was located within the city’s buildings, minimizing the risk of fire spreading. The synagogue in Krnov underwent a quick renovation to resemble a market, effectively tricking the Nazi regime and avoiding destruction.

The aftermath of Kristallnacht was devastating, with an estimated 1,400 synagogues and 7,500 businesses destroyed or damaged. The night claimed the lives of 91 people, and many more became indirect victims due to increased suicide rates in November 1938. This event marked a significant shift in Nazi policy towards Jews, transitioning from discrimination and exclusion to outright physical violence and state-organized pogroms. Remembering Kristallnacht serves as a crucial reminder of the horrors perpetrated during the Holocaust and the importance of ensuring that such atrocities are never forgotten or repeated.

Article by Prague Forum

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