THE NIGHT OF BROKEN GLASS

The "Night of Broken Glass" (in German: Kristallnacht) took place on 9 November 1938 and before the start of the Second World War, in a Europe revolutionised by the "Hitler Effect”. Using an incident that occurred in Paris as a pretext, the SA – a police and military organisation of Nazi Germany – and the German civilian population destroyed Jewish businesses and Synagogues, killing many of their owners.

The trigger for this event occurred in October 1938, when Hitler passed a law that forced Polish Jews living in Germany to return to their country. On 7 November 1938, in Paris, the son of a Polish Jewish couple who lived in Germany assassinated Ernst vom Rath, secretary of the German embassy in France. Therefore, in retaliation for this act in Paris, the Nazi chiefs demonstrated their fury by immediately ordering the SA police to start a series of pogroms—the lynching en masse of persons belonging to a specific ethnic, religious or other group, accompanied by the destruction or plundering of their property.

On that 9 November over 250 synagogues were burnt, 7000 Jewish businesses were plundered and then totally destroyed. Dozens of Jews were murdered and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools and homes were looted while the police and the fire brigades turned a blind eye.

The events in Austria were no less terrible and most of Vienna's 94 synagogues were partially damaged or completely destroyed. The Jews there were subjected to all kinds of humiliations, including scrubbing floors while being tormented by their Austrian compatriots.

This night was called the "Night of Broken Glass" because after the destruction and plundering of Jewish businesses, the streets of Germany were filled with the broken glass of the windows of shops, businesses and homes owned by Jews.

The morning after these acts, around 30,000 German Jews were arrested simply for being Jews. Those arrested were then put on trains to concentration camps. Hundreds of Jewish women were also among those arrested and sent to local prisons. The Jews were forced to keep to a curfew that restricted them from walking freely on the street at certain times of the day and therefore had to stay in their homes.

After this historic event in Europe, young Jewish children also lost their rights and were expelled from state schools. They were also banned from entering parks, public swimming pools and museums. Faced with this situation, some Jews considered suicide and some tried to escape the Nazi regime, while others thought that the Hitler phenomenon would soon end and that they would go back to being German citizens again, with all their rights and in the same conditions they had been granted since their emancipation.


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