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Kristallnacht: The Pogrom Against Jews on November 9th

kristallnacht, jews, nazi, night of the crystals
Kristallnacht: The Holocaust and the 9th of November. Credit: Mike Licht/ Flickr CC BY 2.0

Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews carried out on November 9-10, 1938, throughout Nazi Germany by the Nazi Party’s Sturmabteilung (SA) and Schutzstaffel (SS- ᛋᛋ) paramilitary forces, with the participation from the Hitler Youth and German civilians.

The Holocaust ended eighty-two years and two months ago. Even so, it hadn’t been long enough for the memories to be any less painful.

Kristallnacht: The Pogrom Against Jews on November 9th

Interior view of the destroyed Fasanenstrasse Synagogue, Berlin, burned on Kristallnacht
Kristallnacht: Interior view of the destroyed Fasanenstrasse Synagogue, Berlin, burned in 1938 during the Holocaust. Credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC / Public Domain

November 9th and 10th are remembered by Holocaust survivors by many names. Those include ‘Kristallnacht,’ ‘Crystal Night,’ ‘Night of the Broken Glass,’ and ‘November Pogroms.’

A pogrom is defined as “a mob attack…approved or condoned by authorities, against the persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority” according to Britannica. The attacks on Jews are a key example of this.

Almost everyone has had a history lesson on the collective madness known as the Holocaust at some point in their education. We also learned about the Nazi insanity that seemed to drive WWII and the tragedies to which it led.

Kristallnacht is part of this collective insanity as it ties together in one unbreakable bind the horrors of the violence inflicted by Nazism.

The Nazi excuse to carry out the pogrom against the Jews

Starting from the beginning, on the night of November 9th and through the afternoon and evening of the 10th, and in some areas longer, the German Nazis attacked people of Jewish origin, raided their homes, and damaged or stole their property.

The name Kristallnacht actually comes from this, as  there were shards of glass literally carpeting the city streets throughout Germany.

The supposed reasoning behind the attacks (and the blind eye turned by German authorities) was the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat on the morning of November 7, 1938. He was at work at the German embassy in Paris when Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, walked up to him and fired five times at close range.

The young diplomat’s death was used as the excuse by Nazis to carry out a nationwide pogrom against the Jews of Germany. Regardless of the true motivations for the murder, it provided the perfect justification for the Nazis to intensify their anti-Jewish campaign.

Herschel Feibel Grynszpan
Herschel Feibel Grynszpan. Credit: wikimedia commons / German Federal Archives , Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1988-078-07 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The atrocities of Kristallnacht

The brutal killings, beatings and physical attacks occurred not only in Germany, but also in Austria and the Sudetenland. Hitler’s Sturmabteilung SA paramilitary, along with the Schutzstaffel paramilitary or SS, the Hitler Youth, and German civilians were all participants.

Stores, synagogues, and buildings were destroyed. Homes, hospitals, and schools were decimated and thirty thousand Jewish men were imprisoned.

Kristallnacht, in the minds of historians, was to become the prelude to the Final Solution and the murder in concentration camps of so very many.

According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, in total, over 6 million Jews, 3,3 million Soviet prisoners of war, 1.8 million non-Jews (ethnic) Poles, 250,000 to 500,000 Romani and other people derogatorily labeled as “Gypsies”, 250,000–300,000 people with disabilities, including at least 10,000 children, 310,000 Serbian civilians, 1,700 Jehovah Witnesses , 35,000 Germans imprisoned in concentration camps as “professional criminals” and “asocials” were killed.

During the Soviet era the official number of Soviet people killed was estimated to be around 20 million.. The post-Soviet government of Russia puts the Soviet war losses at 26.6 million, on the basis of the 1993 study by the Russian Academy of Sciences, including people dying as a result of effects of the war. This includes 8,668,400 military deaths as calculated by the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The Holocaust and the Gamaraal Foundation

The last Holocaust Survivor
The last survivor. Credit: Gamaraaal Foundation

Holocaust Remembrance Day is always on January 27th. Still, every day is a day on which one should remember what happened. Many survivors themselves have moved on to make great achievements. Others have achieved as much merely by living a good life.

Founded in 2014, the aim of the Gamaraal Foundation is to aid victims of the Holocaust suffering from financial difficulties or mental and emotional distress. To that end, each year, the foundation makes three contributions in three-digit amounts on Rosh Hashana, Hanukkah, and Passover.

Since its launch in 2015, they have made approximately twenty contributions. These include food and medical aid.

Education is also important to the organization in order to provide prevention. Gamaaral therefore also provides talks and special interviews with those who survived to share their past experience. Another focal point is the preservation of Holocaust victims’ testimonies and their oral history.

Last survivors

According to Shimon Redlich, the 87-year-old Holocaust survivor (as of 2022) who authored the book Together and Apart in Brzezany, “As long as the survivors are alive and can remember, their testimonies must be recorded. Every story is unique.”

That number is rapidly decreasing, however. It has thus fallen on the shoulders of their children or the non-victims and their children to keep the flame of remembrance lit.

That is the purpose of recalling Kristallnacht and supporting foundations such as Gamaraal.

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