Synagogue burning on Kristallnacht
Synagogue burning on Kristallnacht Yad Vashem archives

Kristallnacht marked the beginning of the plan, to rob the German Jews of their possessions for the benefit of the Reich and then to sweep them forever from the German scene. Furthermore, thereafter, Jews had no place in the German economy, and no independent Jewish life was possible, with the dismissal of cultural and communal bodes and the banning of the Jewish press.

During the week after Kristallnacht, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Berlin reporter called that night “The worst outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in modern German History.”

During Kristallnacht, over 1,100 synagogues were destroyed, as well as 7,500 Jewish businesses and countless Jewish homes. About a hundred Jews were killed and 30,000 wee arrested and sent to the concentration camps at Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Dachau, where thousands more died.

Today, many historians can trace a pattern of events, occurring before that night, that would suggest that such an atrocity was to happen.

In 1933, when the Nazis took power, German anti-Semitism adopted quasi-legal forms. One of the new anti-Jewish forms of action, which had began with the Nuremberg laws of 1935, included the separation of the Jews from the daily structure of German life. The Jews, systematically, were deprived of their civil rights; they were isolated from the general populace through humiliating identification measures. The Nazis boycotted the Jewish shops and took away their jobs.

They then made the Jews declare the value of their possessions. The Civil Service and the police often arrested the Jews and forced them to sell their property for a pittance.

One may ask, how could the entire world stand by and allow such a disaster to occur?

The fascist or authoritarian regimes in Italy, Rumania, Hungary and Poland were governments which approved of this pogrom and wanted to use the pogrom as a case to make their own anti-Semitic policies stronger in their individual countries.

The three Great Western powers – Great Britain, France and the United States – said the appropriate things but did nothing to save the Jews. Hitler, in the late 1930’s told the world to take the Jews but there was just no one willing to take them in.

In my country, President Roosevelt and his administration kept on expressing their shock over the terrible events which were occurring in Germany and Austria, but when it came time to act and help save the refugees by bringing them to the United States, the United States government refused and replied by saying that they have no intention of allowing more immigrants to enter the United States. What a contrast to today's millions of migrants!

Looking back at Jewish history, every Jew should be cautions and alert to any hints which might be seen now and forbode a sinister future. Kristallnacht teaches us many things. Among them that we must remain vigilant and not permit even the smallest seed of anti-Semitism to take root.

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