November 10, 1938: Kristallnacht takes place.
The anti-Jewish pogrom known as Kristallnacht (“crystal night”), or the “Night of Broken Glass” - after the shattered glass windows of Jewish-owned stores and other buildings - took place seventy-five years ago on November 9 and 10. After the Nazi Party’s rise to power in 1933 the new regime in Germany implemented a series of laws, including but not limited to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, that defined racial status, placed boycotts on Jewish-owned businesses, and deprived Jews of German citizenship. In the period of economic recovery directly preceding Kristallnacht, non-Aryans (primarily Jews) were economically disempowered: Jewish businesses were transferred to non-Jewish owners, employees were fired, property was confiscated, to the benefit of many German banks and major companies.
What had primarily been persecution through economic/legislative means took a turn for the violent during Kristallnacht, which occurred in reaction to the shooting of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a young Polish Jew whose family had been deported from Hanover. Joseph Goebbels announcement - which clarified that any spontaneous demonstrations that might take place using the shooting as a pretext would not be hampered by party officials - was interpreted as a call to action. Local party leaders organized “spontaneous” riots that targeted Jewish property - businesses, synagogues, homes, mostly carried out by civilians and SA men, many of whom wore civilian clothing to give the violent acts the appearance of an uncontrolled public outburst instead of an organized pogrom. Kristallnacht lasted from the evening of November 9 through November 10. By the end, hundreds of synagogues had been burned or destroyed, and at least 7,000 businesses had been vandalized, destroyed, and/or looted. At least ninety-one people were killed, and tens of thousands were incarcerated.
I did not hear fire engines and we understood then that they didn’t come because they wanted the synagogues to burn. (NPR)
The end of the pogrom was not even remotely the end. The day after the violence ceased, a new decree excluded Jews from engaging in most economic activities, and the Jewish community as a whole was fined one billion marks for vom Rath’s murder. The destruction and violence incurred upon Jews across the Reich marked a shift in the nature of the German government’s implementation of its anti-Semitic policy, and for this reason Kristallnacht is often considered one of the opening events of the Holocaust.