Student Question

Explain the event known as the "Night of the Broken Glass."

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“The Night of Broken Glass,” or Kristallnacht in German, was an incident of violence against the Jews that was instigated by the Nazi Party and that marked a crucial turning point in the Jewish Holocaust in Germany. It started on November 9, 1938, and lasted for two nights. It resulted from anger over the assassination of a German official by a Jewish teenager, and it led to the burning of over 250 synagogues and the trashing and looting of over 7,000 Jewish businesses. The Nazis flooded into Jewish villages, smashed the windows of businesses, looted properties, set fire to the synagogues, and destroyed homes, hospitals, schools, and cemeteries. They arrested thousands of people simply for being Jewish, and they sent them to concentration camps.

The order to carry out the pogroms came from a Nazi official, and the order was carried out by Nazi security forces. Police and fire officials were ordered to stand by and allow the destruction; they were forbidden to do anything to help. Because of the broken shop windows throughout the towns, the incident became known as Kristallnacht, which means “night of broken glass.” Kristallnacht was a horrendous crime, but for the Jewish people in Germany, the horrors were just beginning. The incident led to an onslaught of laws that denied Jews the right to own property and operate businesses.

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