The November Pogrom was a turning point because it brought a marked increase in anti-Semitic violence and persecution. Many Jewish lives were placed in danger. Jewish homes and businesses were looted, vandalised, and destroyed. Places of Jewish worship were also damaged and ruined. Lives, property, as well as precious processions were all under threat. Some were even killed while others were physically abused.

The name of the Pogrom

The November Pogrom also has another name, Kristallnacht, which means “Crystal Night”. This Night of Crystal refers to the Night of Broken Glass where the shattered glass from Jewish homes, businesses, and Synagogues covered the streets because of the violence carried out by rioters during November 9th and 10th 1938. Germany, annexed Austria, and the Sudetenland experienced anti-Semitic violence prompted and encouraged by the Nazi Party.

Events prior to the November Pogrom

The chronology of the November Pogrom is complex. Historians have argued that the event was sparked by the shooting and, as a result, the death of Ernst vom Rath. He was a Paris-based German diplomat who was shot by a Jewish teenager called Herschel Grynszpan. This led to many local riots around Germany but also in Austria and the Sudetenland.

There were major international affairs that affected the events leading up to 9th November 1938. The annexation of Austria, the Munich Agreement which resulted in Germany’s territorial expansion into the Sudetenland, and the deportation of Jewish people from Germany who had Polish nationality are events that historians discuss in relation to the November Pogrom. There were around 50,000 Jewish people who were living in Germany who had Polish heritage. Many had been living in Germany before 1933, some had been born there, while others had immigrated to Germany more recently. However, they were now forced into a no man’s land between Germany and Poland. The Nazis rounded up and deported them to the border between the two nations.

Grynszpan had received news that his parents were among those who were living in this no man’s land between the two boarders even though they had lived in Germany since 1911. Their German identity and nationality had thus been stripped from them. They were now stateless as Germany had deported them to the border, and Poland had denied them entry. Apparently, the teenager Grynszpan sought revenge and therefore went to the German Embassy in Paris and shot the diplomat on the 7th November 1938. Grynszpan was living in Paris illegally. On the 9th November, vom Rath died.

The November Pogrom (Kristallnacht)

The events of the November Pogrom illustrated a move away from the legal and bureaucratic strategies that the Nazis had previously used for persecuting Jews – and a move towards increased violence.

Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had been having an affair with a Czech actress called Lida Baarova, but it was not kept private and soon became a scandal, embarrassing the Nazi regime. Hitler’s relationship to Goebbels became strained. Goebbels amplified the significance of the shooting in Paris. Nazi propaganda, overseen by Goebbels, presented the shooting as part of a Jewish conspiracy designed to foment tensions between Germany and France.

The destruction of the built environment

Rioters burnt down Jewish buildings and smashed the glass from the windows. 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland were destroyed. The firefighters were instructed to not put out the fires of burning buildings belonging to Jewish people. They were only allowed to prevent the fires from spreading to non-Jewish buildings. The SA and Hitler Youth members walked the neighbourhoods to find Jewish-owned establishments and break the glass and loot the stores. Jewish homes and businesses were not the only spaces to be destroyed many Jewish cemeteries were also targeted.

The destruction of lives

Thousands of Jewish men were rounded up and taken to concentration camps such as Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Some of these men were murdered while in the camps while others who were later released were both physically and emotionally scarred by their experiences and by the events that they had witnessed while they were imprisoned.

Some Jewish children were rejected by their peers and tormented and bullied at school before they had to leave. Jewish people also had to clean up the broken glass and if their homes were looted and vandalised they also had to place items and objects where they had once stood before the violence. They also were fined one billion Reichsmark by the government and were blamed for the Pogrom.

Following the Pogrom many new anti-Jewish laws were introduced. The Aryanization of Jewish businesses was stepped up, meaning that the ownership was transferred from Jewish ownership to Aryan ownership. Jewish children also had to attend Jewish schools as they were no longer allowed to attend Aryan schools. Jewish people were also forbidden to enter parks, attend the cinema or theatres, and they were no longer allowed to take public transport.

When Kristallnacht, ‘the Night of Broken Glass’ happened in 1938. I was away from home in Mannheim, learning sewing. I’ll never forget the noise that night in Mannheim- the rabble going down the road, smashing things wherever they found Jewish flats.
QuoteReference: Ellen Rawson; Holocaust Survivor, Quote from Journeys

Thoughts turn to emigration

Many Jewish people did not feel safe after the events of the November Pogrom. Thoughts turned to emigration and many would apply to leave as a result. For example, around 10,000 children fled from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland on the Kindertransports that reached Britain. The Kinders’ parents would bravely send their children to strange lands because their safety was no longer guaranteed in their homelands. It was difficult for adults to emigrate but some were able to flee to countries such as Britain, France, Palestine, and America, to name but a few nations.

Bibliography

Gilbert, Martin, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction (Harper Perennial: London, 2007).

Levitt, Ruth, Pogrom – November 1938: Testimonies from Kristallnacht (Souvenir Press: London, 2015).

Meyer, Beate and Simon, Hermann, Jews in Nazi Berlin: From Kristallnacht to Liberation (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2009).