World War II

Start Free Trial

What was Kristallnacht, and what did it foreshadow Which group of people were “scapegoats” for the Nazi party, and why were they targeted?  

Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was an attack on German Jews by the Nazis on 9–10 November 1938. It foreshadowed a long campaign of violence against Jews by the Nazis, which ultimately culminated in the Holocaust.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

On the nights of 9–10 November 1938, paramilitary Nazi forces and civilians carried out attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria. They destroyed numerous synagogues, homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses. During this period, 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps. The pretext for this wave of violence was the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

On the nights of 9–10 November 1938, paramilitary Nazi forces and civilians carried out attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria. They destroyed numerous synagogues, homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses. During this period, 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps. The pretext for this wave of violence was the assassination of Ernst von Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jewish young man, but in fact this marked a major escalation of general persecution of the Jews, including banning Jews from schools, censoring Jewish newspapers, and suppressing many Jewish cultural activities. It marked a transition from anti-Semitic rhetoric to active violence against Jews and is often considered the beginning of the Holocaust.

Kristallnacht was the outcome of systematic antisemitism by Hitler and the Nazi party. Hitler held that Jews (as well as homosexuals and gypsies) were to blame for the decline of Germany and loss of World War I, scapegoating minorities rather than examining deeper causes.

Antisemitism was not unique to Hitler but had a long history in Europe dating from the Middle Ages. Many Christians saw the Jews as responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. In Germany, Hitler and the Nazis were concerned with racial and cultural purity of the Aryan race and saw Jews as non-German outsiders, and thus a threat to this notion of a nation as ethnically and culturally cohesive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team