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Kristallnacht & Kicking the Jews Out

Kristallnacht & Kicking the Jews Out

The screws tighten against German Jewry, culminating in the Night of Broken Glass.


Initially, the Nazis simply wanted all the Jews out of German territory. In fact, they helped Jews emigrate to Israel. But little by little, the pressure was turned up and the doors shut tight.

In 1936-38, various anti-Jewish signage began to appear in public: "Parks Not For Jews." "Jews Not Wanted." "Proudly Announcing the Re-Opening of a Former Jewish Business, Now Owned By a German."

Yet many Jews still didn’t realize they were supposed to leave. Germany was considered a pinnacle of civilized living. More than any other country, Jews in Germany had made progress in terms of human rights and integrating into the society. No one could imagine what was about to happen.

Getting Papers

Anti-Semitic sign, banning Jews from entry to public baths, Berlin

Rabbi Eliyahu Ellis of Aish Jerusalem relates:

My dad told me a story of his life as a young man living in Germany. He worked in a big department store and one day his boss, also a Jew, asked him to stay overtime.

Everyone went home, and my dad and his boss were the only ones left in the store. The boss said, "Pull down all the shutters, let’s black-out the store." So they did. They waited a few hours after dark. Up pulled an S.S. command car, and quickly popped out an S.S. general and his wife. The general’s wife wanted to shop and as the general said, "I like to come to Jewish stores because I know I’m going to get a good deal."

As a young man, my dad was an athlete – a top soccer player on the regional team. Apparently, the general had seen my dad play and really admired him. So while his wife was shopping, the general chatted with my father.

It was very hard to get out during those years, but he finally found a route out. However, there was a problem: My dad’s papers were held up somewhere and he couldn’t access them. So one day he approached the S.S. general to help out.

The general said, "Don’t worry, you can stay in Germany and you’ll be under my personal protection."

My dad thanked him very much, but said, "I think I should leave." The general agreed and a day later, my father’s papers showed up.

Plight of the Jews: New Your Times' editorial cartoon on the Evian Conference

The Evian Conference

In July 1938, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with other world leaders, called a conference to discuss the Jewish refugee problem. Thirty-two nations participated in the conference. But the unwritten fine print of the invitation said: "While we try to figure out what to do about the Jews, no nation will be asked to take any more Jews than its quota already allows."

The result was sadly predictable.

While acknowledging the plight of Jews in German lands, the nation of the world arose to do... nothing. The big countries did not want more Jews, and the small countries followed this lead by also refusing to take any. With the lone exception of the Dominican Republic, no country made a concrete offer to accept Jewish refugees.

The conference was a dismal failure. Commentators sarcastically pointed out that the location of the conference, Evian (France), spelled backwards is "naïve."

The Jews had finally realized it was time to leave Germany. Yet there was no place to go.


Kristallnacht: Burning synagogue in the German town of Siegen (above); Aftermath: the Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin (below)

The Germans were looking for a way to get rid of their Jews. Send them anywhere, but just get them out. Many Jews of Polish origin had come to Germany because conditions were much better than in Poland. The Germans saw this as a group to be easily rid of.

These Jews were rounded up and on one cold, rainy night, were herded and beaten across the border. Some 15,000 Polish Jews – no longer considered Poles – found themselves in a small Polish border town with a total population of 6,000. There was no place for them, so they were stuck into military stables, under impossible conditions. They hadn’t eaten for days.

Two of these Polish Jews had a 17-year-old son named Henry Grynszpan, who was living in Paris. He was frantic with concern for his parents and felt that he needed to "do something” to publicize the plight of the Jews in Germany. So he got a gun, walked to the German embassy in Paris, and shot an embassy official named Ernst Von Rath. (He died two weeks later.)

This triggered a "spontaneous" uprising against the Jews – which had actually been planned for a while, but now had a pretext to put the plan into action.

In one night of terror, November 9-10, 1938, German mobs destroyed many vestiges of Jewish presence. A total of 1,350 Jewish synagogues were burnt to the ground or destroyed; 91 Jews were killed; 30,000 Jews were thrown into concentration camps; 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed; and thousands of Jewish homes were ransacked.

This was called "Kristallnacht," the "Night of Broken Glass," because the streets were covered with broken glass from all the Jewish windows.

Germany did not produce plate glass at the time, and it took Belgium’s total plate glass production six months to replace all the broken windows. To top it off, the Jews were charged one billion Deutsch Marks to pay for the damages.

It is hard for us to imagine the scope of destruction on Kristallnacht. Germany was filled with beautiful, old synagogues that existed for centuries, and every German town had its own small "shteibel" synagogue. Overnight it all went up in flames.

The Jews finally got the message: It was time to leave. But where to go?

February 15, 2002

Article 4 of 13 in the series Holocaust Overview

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Visitor Comments: 116

(113) Allan, December 15, 2013 3:14 PM

Power of knowledge

I never believed the lie "It was absence of knowledge" that USA did not intervien in the Holocaust. Thank you for confirming the lie for me. I did not know of the Evian Conference had occured. It makes me think of so much that occurs today. Please keep up the good work and expose the untruth in the past and this world today.

(112) Anonymous, May 15, 2013 5:40 PM


(111) Anonymous, May 13, 2013 6:43 AM

Good on Trueman

Glad when the war ended Harry Truman was the President. I don't believe Roosevelt would have voted to establish the Jewish state of Israel.

(110) Anonymous, March 25, 2013 7:49 PM

thanks this helped for my history however i want to find out what made hitler isolate the jews and why people started to believe him without any proof? why did they find propaganda truthful and what arguments represent that because of the jews being isolated it cause ww2?

melitta krusina, May 3, 2013 3:37 PM

Germany faced no jobs hunger. He promised jobs and a big turn around. Most people in desparegen whenn they lost everything do lots of things even as low as in WWII . Crime in this USA is higher then ever do to the economy. However WWII there is absolutely no Excuse for the crimes that have been commited it is Horrific.Hitler was an insane killer with other killers in tow. No excuse.

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