Kristallnacht

November 9th and 10th, 1938

Kristallnacht

Precursor

The Polish government could tell that Germany intended to expel Jews who were Polish citizens, thereby forcing them to return to Poland. The Polish government made a statement that said that citizenship would be revoked if citizens abroad did not receive a special stamp by October 31, 1938.  Without this stamp, Polish citizens would be refused re-entry into Poland.

When Hitler learned of these plans to disenfranchise the Polish-born Jews he ordered that 12,000 Jews be expelled from Germany on October 27, 1938 – just 4 days before the citizenship was to be revoked.  There was approximately 24 hours for the Jews being expelled to pack their bags.  They were to board trains and be dumped off at the Polish border at a station in Zbasyn, Poland.  4,000 Jews were eventually let into Poland, but at least 7,000 were forced to stay at the station in Zbasyn, without food, housing, money, or any information on what was to happen.

The family of a 17-year-old Polish Jewish student Herschel Grynszpan were among those expelled from Germany, although his parents had lived in Hanover since 1914. Herschel was studying in Paris when his sister sent him a postcard about their predicament, which he received on November 3, 1938.  Grynszpan was angry, scared, and felt powerless.  This angsty teen decided to shoot the ambassador to France from Germany at the German embassy in Paris.

When Grynszpan went to the embassy he couldn’t find the ambassador, but he did spot a different German official, Ernst von Rath, who was shot and died two days later.  Goebbels received the information that Grynszpan had died on the night of November 9, 1938.  He decided to use this information as an excuse to organize a mass pogrom against the Jews of Germany.

“This was the beginning of a nightmare that I cannot forget.”

Sonja Waitzman

Holocaust Survivor

Ernst Vom Rath

German diplomat Shot by a Jew in Paris.

On November 9, 1938, Joseph Goebbels receives a telegram that Ernst vom Rath has passed away.  A few days prior he was shot by Herschel Grynszpan in Paris. Rath is a German diplomat in France who works at the embassy there, while Grynszpan is a German-Jewish boy whose family is caught on the border of Poland and Germany. 

(Pictured: Ernst Vom Rath)

 

Destruction of Property on Kristallnacht

Destruction of Property

Starting in late evening on November 9, 1938 and continuing through the next day, Nazi gangs razed; destroyed; and looted more than 1,000 Jewish synagogues and over 7,500 Jewish businesses.  Over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps (at this stage the concentration camps were not extermination sites, they were simply internment places which people actually did get released from frequently.)  91 Jews were murdered during the violence on that very night, but the death toll was much higher when you factor in the hundreds that died at Sachsenhausen; Dachau; and Buchenwald, plus the dozens of Jews who committed suicide in the coming days.  Nazi officials ordered German police officers and firemen to do nothing as the riots raged and buildings burned, although firefighters were allowed to extinguish blazes that threatened Aryan-owned property.

(Pictured: Synagogue burning on the night of November 9, 1938)

Kristallnacht

Trapped in Hell

A few days later the German government actually had the audacity to charge the Jewish community with the cost of repairing their own property (which wasn’t even destroyed by them.)  This was considered the turning point in the mind of many German/Austrian Jews and the flood of people who wanted to emigrate was now overwhelming every consulate in Berlin.  

 

(Pictured: Jews in Vienna waiting outside the Polish embassy on the morning after the pogrom.)

 

For detailed accounts of Kristallnacht follow the link below:

Kristallnacht Testimonies