Eyewitnesses recall the degradation and devastation that 70 years ago marked a point of no return Jews in Germany.
Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass,” was actually two nights: November 9 and 10, 1938, when throughout the Third Reich (including the annexed Sudetenland and Austria) crowds engaged in a premeditated, organized pogrom. The assassination of a Nazi functionary in Paris provided the excuse, but in fact Kristallnacht continued the campaign of systematic persecution begun five years earlier with the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws; many today consider the brutal term the Nazis originally used, “Jew Action,” to be a more accurate summary of their intentions. Bard (Will Israel Survive?, 2007, etc.), the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, culls his griping oral history primarily from survivor accounts collected by other scholars and the Shoah Foundation. Overnight, power and phone lines were cut. Jewish homes, offices and shops all previously identified, were invaded, destroyed and looted. Mobs burned books, furniture, toys, schools and thousands of synagogues. Fire brigades, ready to protect adjacent Aryan property if necessary, stood by and watched the conflagrations. Marauding SS and Brown Shirts scorned Iron Crosses earned by Jewish soldiers in the Great War. They took souvenirs, stole silver and piggy banks, smashed china and pianos—and the glass windows that gave the action its historic sobriquet. Tens of thousands of adult men were seized and sent to concentration camps. Families were broken. Children were scattered. Some Jews emigrated soon after, some were murdered that night, some died by suicide. Kristallnacht has been the subject of scholarly attention, but Bard focuses on the experiences of children, reprinting powerful testimonies of the fear they felt and the hatred directed against them. A few gentiles expressed sympathy, but the majority of the German population seemed quite pleased with the Wagnerian events. There would be little popular objection to the murder of millions that was to come.
A searing depiction of the Holocaust’s opening ceremonies.