Kristallnacht: Broken glass and broken hearts

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 08:32 AM.

According to one deportee, “Everyone was loaded onto wagons... Crying women and children, heartrending scenes... Women and children fainting, unconscious, incidents of death, faces as yellow as wax... Women and children half-dead.”

Kristallnacht was a turning point in anti-Semitic politics. Afterwards, anti-Jewish policies increased dramatically. The next day Goebbels stated, “We shed not a tear for them.” On the subject of the destroyed synagogues, he said, “They stood in the way long enough. We can use the space made free more usefully than as Jewish fortresses.”

Kristallnacht gave the Nazis the opportunity to eradicate Jews from the German public. They stated that the Jews were to blame for the event, and placed a fine on them for the destruction. Insurance payments for businesses were seized, leaving the owners forced to pay off the entire debt. Police reported a high number of rapes and suicides after Kristallnacht. Businesses were later taken from Jews, and they were barred from practicing most professions. Any Jewish children still in school were expelled. Jews could no longer drive or go to “German” theaters.

In his account of the aftermath of the event, Shlomo Wahrman said, “The store was boarded up... Our home no longer offered to us...Our family was now scattered in three different locations.” More and more Jews were sent to concentration camps afterwards. From an SS journal, the Nazis hoped to accomplish, “the actual and final end of Jewry in Germany, its complete destruction.”

In conclusion, Kristallnacht was a harrowing and horrible event. It is important to remember, not only in respect for those who died or lost their homes and businesses in the event itself, but for the many, many people that were sent to concentration camps, killed, or worse in the aftermath. Since Kristallnacht is considered the start of the Holocaust, the many horrendous and inhumane events that occurred afterwards owe part of their origin to it.

This shows us that prejudice and hatred against another group of people is nothing but destructive, and we should be mindful that such events can, and most likely will, happen if we do not remain attentive and work to stop them.

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