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Kristallnacht (also called Reichskristallnacht, Reichspogromnacht, English: Night of the Broken Glass) was a two-day pogrom that happened against Jews in Nazi Germany and parts of Austria. It was between 9 and 10 November 1938. About 30,000 Jews were moved to concentration camps, and over 1,500 synagogues were pillaged and partly destroyed. Also, almost all Jewish cemeteries in Germany and Austria were destroyed. This marked the change from discriminating against Jews to actively persecuting and deporting them.

Herschel Grynszpan (sometimes also spelled Grünspan), a 17-year-old Jew living in Paris, learned that his whole family had been made to go back to Zsbaszyn in Poland, even though the younger children had been born in Germany. He got a gun, and with this he fired shots at Ernst Eduard vom Rath, who was a secretary of the German embassy in Paris. This was on 7 November. Vom Rath died of his wounds on 9 November.

The motive of Grynszpan is unclear. In a judicial hearing in 1942, he said it was revenge. He meant to shoot the ambassador, but hit the secretary instead.

The NSDAP used this event as an excuse to seize Jewish property. There had been a similar event in February 1936 but there were almost no consequences. Then, a Jewish student, David Frankfurter, had fired shots at the NSDAP secretary Wilhelm Gustloff. At that time, the NSDAP could not act because of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

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Further reading[change | change source]

  • Schultheis, Herbert. Die Reichskristallnacht in Deutschland nach Augenzeugenberichten (Bad Neustädter Beiträge zur Geschichte und Heimatkunde Frankens 3). Bad Neustadt a. d. Saale: Rötter Druck und Verlag. 1985. ISBN 978-3-9800482-3-1.