The Night of Shimmering Glass
Kristallnacht, “Night of Crystal,” was a turning point between Germany and the rest of the world. On November 9th, 1938, an uprising against the Jewish residents of Germany and Austria occurred. This attack against the Jewish was referred to as a pogrom. Kristallnacht was the first marked nationwide action against religion. The Nazi regime and their wish to implement Nuremberg’s laws helped push-start the process of degrading Jews to an inferior level in life by giving reason to start the riot. The accumulation of events and new laws leading to Kristallnacht forced thousands of Jews to be stuck on the border lines of Poland and Germany, thus setting the stage for Germany’s justification for the genocide yet to occur. The aftermath of Kristallnacht changed the lives of Jewish and non-Jewish people. It affected the economy, the power and control of the Nazi’s, and further advanced the start of World War II and the Holocaust. In a few words, historian Max Rein described Kristallnacht best: “Kristallnacht came... and everything was changed.” (1)
The usage of the term Kristallnacht – Crystal Night – became popular in 1946. The name of this event was thought to be chosen as a derogatory remark against the Jews. It meant the night of broken glass, almost describing the violence and wave of anti-Jewish mobs as a piece of art: “... it sparkles, glistens, and gleams as if it were a special occasion.” (2) Pehle argues that if the term Kristallnacht was created as an offensive statement, then it reinforced the ruthlessness of the Nazi’s and how they were able to view human suffering so lightly. In his book, Eingriffe, Theodor Adorno addressed the interpretation of Kristallnacht and also connected it to the cruelty of the Nazi’s: “...the notion of Reichkristallnacht conveyed not so much Nazi cynicism, but a critical stance towards Nazi brutality.” (3) In other words, although some historians have argued that the Nuremberg’s Laws and anti-Semitic behaviour was brought on by the distrust of Jewish people in the government and day to day life, Adorno believed this event shed light on the brutal measures the Nazi’s were willing to take to rid them of the Jews. Kristallnacht was a bomb waiting to go off whether or not Ernst vom Rath’s death was to occur. It is important to take note of the events which took place pre-Kristallnacht in order to understand the theory of the Nazi regime using vom Rath’s death as a rationale for the pogroms raids on November 9th, 1938. The events leading up to Kristallnacht began some time before the first night pogroms raged throughout Germany and Austria. In 1933, the Nazi regime released the first wave of legislative law which restricted the participation of Jewish people in German public life. German law limited the number of Jewish students that could attend German schools and also stripped them of their medical and legal professions (4). In the following years, the Nazi leaders came up with the “Nuremberg Laws” which deprived German Jews of most political rights and isolated them from the rest of the population. As the year of Kristallnacht approached, a new law passed requiring all Jewish business owners to register their business, thus removing them from German economy. In June 1938, the Germans “had entered a new radical phase in anti-Semitic activity.” (5) In Munich, the destruction of Jewish synagogues had already begun, and once again in August—the destruction of the Nuremberg synagogue. In the time of these events, Jewish people had already started being sent to concentration camps. In October of 1938, the isolation of Jews from German society, which was reinforced by a required symbol of “J” on all Jewish passports, concluded in the expulsion of Polish Jews from Germany and Austria. (6) In March 1938, after Austria and Germany connected, the Polish government feared there would be a mass immigration of German and Austrian Jews due to the continuous growing of...
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