Kristallnacht ( “Crystal Night”), also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom (a series of coordinated attacks) against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues had their windows smashed.
At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and 30,000 were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.
Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world. The Times wrote at the time: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”
The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew living in Paris. Kristallnacht was followed by additional economic and political persecution of Jews, and is viewed by historians as part of Nazi Germany’s broader racial policy, and the beginning of the Final Solution and The Holocaust.
The Synagogue in Essen, where my family were founding members, remained intact, but its bronze dome was destroyed and the interior vandalised. My family in England, the Brothers Hirschland, tried to help others flee Germany, but for many it was too late.
Prayer: Lord, we grieve over the sufferings of the past, and long for peace and reconciliation today in the midst of the violent conflicts around the world, including that in Israel/Palestine. Will you give us grace for the healing and restoration of relationships where there has been abuse of power, and help us to achieve true justice, peace and reconciliation. In our Messiah Yeshua, Amen.