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50 years after ‘Kristallnacht’

The Story

On Nov. 9, 1938, the Nazi regime unleashed an savage campaign of orchestrated anti-Jewish violence. After a Jewish teen murders a German diplomat in Paris, riots explode across Germany. Jewish homes and business are attacked, synagogues are burned and Jews are beaten and murdered in what came to be known as Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass." In this 1988 broadcast, The National marks the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, looking on as German communities and Jews alike mark that night with solemn ceremonies and the rebuilding of synagogues as part of a long journey towards healing.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 9, 1988
Anchor: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Claude Adams
Duration: 3:39

Did You know?

Kristallnacht began after the shooting of a Nazi diplomat in Paris on Nov. 7, 1938. Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Jew living in Paris, was enraged upon hearing his family was forcibly deported from Germany. Grynszpan went to the German embassy and shot junior diplomat Ernst vom Rath. Vom Rath died two days later, and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels seized the opportunity to launch the anti-Jewish pogroms across the country. Ironically, vom Rath was, at the time, under suspicion of being a Jewish sympathizer. Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Main Security Office, issued written orders for anti-Jewish attacks on Kristallnacht. They included:
• Only such measures may be taken which do not jeopardize German life or property (for instance, burning of synagogues only if there is no danger of fires for the neighbourhoods).
• Businesses and dwellings of Jews should only be destroyed, not plundered.
• The demonstrations are not to be prevented by the police.

• In the course of one night, Kristallnacht exacted a staggering toll on Jews in Germany. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned, with 267 being destroyed; 7,500 Jewish businesses were attacked and looted; 30,000 Jewish males were arrested and sent to concentration camps and another 91 Jews were murdered.


• Adding insult to injury, the Nazi regime ordered the Jewish community to pay a fine of one billion Reichsmarks (about US $400,000 in 1938) to cover cleanup costs after Kristallnacht. Furthermore, all insurance monies paid to Jews were ordered forfeited to the state.




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