On November 9, 1938, a series of coordinated attacks (pogroms) against Jews began throughout Nazi Germany. The streets of German cities were covered with shards of glass from the windows of Jewish-owned shops, buildings and synagogues. Because of these fragments, the mass murder of Jews by fascist thugs went down in history as Crystal Night or the Night of Broken Glass.
The formal reason for the attack was the murder of the third secretary of the German embassy in France, Ernst vom Rath, by the Polish Jew Herschel Grynszpan. On November 7, 1938, Grynszpan showed up at the German embassy in Paris and shot vom Rath five times. Hitler sent his personal physician Karl Brandt to Paris, but it was not possible to save the wounded diplomat, so he died on November 9.
The German authorities used this murder as a pretext for organizing mass pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria. Since November 7, the Reich Ministry of Propaganda launched a powerful propaganda campaign, calling on the German nation “to retaliate.”
On the night of November 9–10, with the support of the Nazi authorities, Jewish pogroms were organized in dozens of cities in Germany (including the territory of Austria and the Sudetenland). They were carried out by SA paramilitary units and civilians. The police was withdrawn and did not interfere with these events in any way. The first pogrom took place in Bad Hersfeld, where a synagogue was set on fire. Then on the same day, Jewish shops were destroyed in Witzenhausen, Eschweg, Fritzlar.
In Berlin, rioters burned 9 out of 12 synagogues, while fire-fighters, as noted, did not take part in extinguishing the fires. The same picture was observed throughout Germany – synagogues were destroyed in Munich, Dusseldorf, Bremen, Cologne, Leipzig and other cities. Most of them suffered in Vienna, Austria – 42 synagogues.
At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks. Moreover, a third of the deaths occurred in the city of Nuremberg. Another 30 thousand Jews were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps. Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were looted, and the attackers destroyed buildings with sledgehammers. More than 1,000 synagogues were burned, and more than 7,000 Jewish-owned buildings and shops were destroyed or damaged.
Kristallnacht or Crystal Night was a turning point in the fate of German and Austrian Jewry and a direct prologue to one of the most terrible crimes of the Nazi regime – the mass extermination of Jews – the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of 6 million people. In memory of the massacre of Jews in Germany, many countries celebrate a mournful date on November 9 – the International Day against Fascism, Racism and Anti-Semitism.