Night of Nazi Terror

The sound of shattering glass was the siren signaling the end for millions of Jews in Europe, but many ignored it. Too many dismissed it as a single act of terror by a bunch of German thugs and brown-shirted misfits. But Kristallnacht was a sort of warning shot across the bow of European Jewry.

Kristallnacht Headline NYT

Ben Austin, Sociology Professor at Middle Tennessee State, has quite a bit of information on his website about the infamous Night of Broken Glass of 9-10 November 1938. Author Gerald Reitlinger, in his 1953 book The Final Solution, calls it the Week of Broken Glass, beginning with the vom Rath murder on 7 November and the escalating retaliation which culminated in 12 November’s meeting of German officials. “The pogroms [i.e. Kristallnacht] were only the unofficial penalty for the murder of vom Rath. The official penalty was not announced till…Goering held his inter-ministerial conference in the Air Ministry building.” According to the surviving excerpts of that meeting’s minutes, Reichsmarschall Goering “had instructions from the Fuehrer that the Jewish question was to be ‘co-ordinated and solved, now, once, and for all, in one way or another’”(p. 15). The “official penalty” for the murder of vom Rath—supposed proof of the international Jewish conspiracy—was to be a thousand million marks fine levied upon the Jews, confiscation of their businesses and repayment of the damage without the help of insurance companies. Goering remarked, “The pigs will not commit another murder. Incidentally, I would like to say that I would not like to be a Jew in Germany now”(p. 17).

As the world now knows, the Nazis merely used the vom Rath murder as an excuse to unleash their unholy terror on the Jews of Europe, beginning in the Reich. Here is the order that went out From Heinrich Müller to all Gestapo offices – transmitted at 11:55 p.m., November 9, 1938:

1. Actions against Jews, especially against their synagogues, will take place throughout the Reich shortly. They are not to be interfered with; however, liaison is to be effected with the Ordnungspolizei to ensure that looting and other significant excesses are suppressed.

2. So far as important archive material exists in synagogues this is to be secured by immediate measures.

3. Preparations are to be made for the arrest of about 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in the Reich. Above all well-to-do Jews are to be selected. Detailed instructions will follow in the course of this night.

4. Should Jews in possession of weapons be encountered in the course of the action, the sharpest measures are to be taken. Verfugungstruppen der SS as well as general SS can be enlisted for all actions. Control of the actions is to be secured in every case through the Gestapo. Looting, larceny etc. is to be prevented in all cases. For securing material, contact is to be established immediately with the responsible SD…leadership. Addendum for Stapo Cologne: In the Cologne synagogue there is especially important material. This is to be secured by the quickest measures in conjunction with SD.
(Source: The History Place ©1996 )

For more information on Kristallnacht:

Kristallnacht: The November 1938 Pogroms – USHMM 

Photos of Kristallnacht from the Jewish Virtual Library

Yad Vashem’s It Came from Within: 71 Years Since Kristallnacht

Holocaust Studies at Middle Tennessee State University

2 Responses to “Night of Nazi Terror”

  1. Thanks for bringing your site to my attention. It is indeed a part of history that most of us know too little about. I shall continue to follow your posts.

  2. steve phelps Says:

    What was in the Cologne synagogue that needed to be secured immediately? I cannot find a reference.

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