Kristallnacht—The Night of Broken Glass—was the beginning of Hitler's Final Solution and the Shoah. On November 9, 1938 Nazi storm troopers in Germany and Austria ransacked, demolished and burnt 1000 synagogues, 7000 Jewish businesses, countless Jewish schools, hospitals and community buildings. Rampant looting took place—not by the Nazis, but by civilians. Violence erupted in hundreds of communities, some where only a few Jewish families lived. Almost 100 Jews were murdered and 30,000 were sent off to concentration camps.
In cities throughout Germany and parts of Austria, Jewish residents were tormented and humiliated, while their property and Jewish artifacts were taken and destroyed. In the city of Benshem, Jews were rounded up and forced to dance while their synagogue was torched. In Rathaus, Jews were forced to kneel in front of their burning synagogue. In Hereford, Jews were forced to sing obscene songs while watching their synagogue burn. Rabbis' beards were plucked off or shaved. In Vienna, Jews were forced to march through the streets in tallitot (prayer shawls) and shredded Torah parchments. In Fortmund, Jews were forced to throw every piece of furniture and possession they owned out of windows, and then each, no matter what their age, was forced to carry each item up the stairs by themselves. In Dusseldorf, Jewish men and women clad in pajamas and nightgowns were forced to walk barefoot on broken glass.
Reports of Kristallnacht sent shock waves throughout the civilized world, but the world failed to act out in response. Immediately after Kristallnacht, Hitler's government instituted economic and political legislation to persecute the Jewish people. Jews realized that they were doomed in Germany and sought to leave. However, many countries, including the United States, were not accepting these immigrants.
We remember those who died in Kristallnacht, those who were tortured, those who watched the smoke of their Torah scrolls ascend to heaven, and those whose death sentence was sealed during Kristallnacht.
Read the November President's Column in Hadassah Magazine, where President Marcie Natan speaks about the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the history of anti-Semitism since, and what Zionism means to Hadassah.
Click here for additional information and resources about Kristallnacht from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.