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On the night of November 9 & 10, 1938 – through a series of state-sponsored programs targeted at Jews – the Nazis wreaked havoc all across Germany and Austria as synagogues were burned, shop windows smashed, businesses destroyed, stores looted, homes ransacked, families torn apart and at least 91 Jews killed.
30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps bearing such notorious names as Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen – where hundreds died upon mere weeks of arrival.
he supposed pretext for this violence was the November 7th assassination of Ernst vom Rath – a German diplomat in Paris – by Herschel Grynszpan. Grynszpan was a Jewish teenager whose parents – along with 18,000 other Polish Jews – had been recently expelled from the Reich.
In response, Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels quickly delivered a potently anti-Semitic speech in Munich that sparked the Kristallnacht riots throughout Germany and Austria.
Though portrayed as a spontaneous outburst of popular outrage, these programs were actually a calculated act carried out by the SS, SA, regional police and local Nazi organizations.
Kristallnacht was the culmination of a steady escalation of violence against Jews that began increasing during the absorption of Austria into the Reich in March of 1938.
History looks back on the “Night of Broken Glass” as a prelude to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and the planned systematic extermination of an innocent people. The Jews were then charged for the destruction and forced to do the cleanup.
Today, as we wrestle with new challenges confronting our society and address new threats to our security, we are undoubtedly reminded of the harsh lessons learned from the Holocaust. The indescribable horrors of that era will forever remind us of the destructive brutality that comes from the seeds of hatred, bigotry and apathy.
Out of the horrors of the Holocaust, the term “crime against humanity” was coined. For, man’s evil against his fellow man was never so ruthless in scope, so methodical in execution or so calculated in its devastation as it was during that dark era.
In retrospect, Kristallnacht was more than merely the shattering of glass and illusions. In actuality, the “Night of Broken Glass” was a harbinger of plans for the literal destruction of European Jewry.