Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a state-sponsored pogrom organized by the Nazi Party on November 9-10, 1938 throughout Germany, Austria and in the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia. It was officially presented as a "spontaneous outburst" provoked by the assassination of the third secretary of the German embassy in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, by Herschel Grynszpan, a young Polish-Jew. Apparently with Hitler's consent, Joseph Goebbels hinted that this was the "hour for action against the Jews".
Instructions were conveyed to Nazi Party members throughout Germany and Austria that encouraged Party members, along with members of the SA, Storm Troopers, to participate in the pogrom. Synagogues were destroyed and burned; shop windows of Jewish-owned stores were shattered; and the stores were looted. Jewish homes were assaulted and, in many places, Jews were physically attacked. Approximately 30,000 Jews – especially those in positions of visibility, with perceived influence and wealth – were arrested.
In the aftermath, the damage to Jewish property was estimated at several hundred-million reichsmarks, and the insurance payments due to the owners of demolished stores came to 25 million reichsmarks. A decision was made by the hierarchy of the Nazi party to levy a fine of one-billion reichsmarks on the Jewish community, under the pretext of reparation for the murder of vom Rath. The state also confiscated the insurance payments due to Jewish store owners while at the same time making them liable for the repairs.
Kristallnacht was a turning point. It was the Nazis' first experience of large-scale anti-Jewish violence and opened the way to the complete eradication of the Jews' position in Germany.
The Holocaust Center's annual Lessons from Kristallnacht program is made possible through the generosity of Edgar and Sandy Snyder.
Both the annual community program and day-long teacher workshop looks at the complex political forces and racial beliefs and policies underlying the Nazis' rise to power as well as how one can apply the lessons one learns from the study of the Holocaust to today's world.