In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Kristallnacht: The November Pogrom 1938 in Nazi Germany

  • Introduction
  • The Deportation of Polish Jews
  • Early Violence
  • Postwar Trials
  • Memory and Politics

Jewish Studies Kristallnacht: The November Pogrom 1938 in Nazi Germany
by
Wolf Gruner
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0228

Introduction

The notorious pogrom of 9–10 November 1938, also known as “Kristallnacht,” or Crystal Night, was launched by the Nazi leadership to drive the majority of German Jews out of the country before the start of a war. This happened after other options, such as the mass expulsion of Polish Jews two weeks earlier, had mostly failed. Using the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Polish Jew as a pretext, Hitler and Goebbels unleashed an unprecedented orchestrated wave of violence against Jews in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. The Schutzstaffel (SS), Sturmabteilung (SA), Hitler Youth, and civilians beat and murdered hundreds of Jewish men and women. They destroyed and plundered countless shops; burned and demolished more than two thousand synagogues and many Jewish community buildings, including orphanages and schools; and invaded and demolished over ten thousand private homes and rental apartments. Countless Jewish men, women, and children were left without shelter, and many committed suicide. Ordnungspolizei (Order Police) and the Gestapo (Secret Police) arrested thirty thousand Jews, overwhelmingly men, during the week after the pogroms, hundreds of whom died during the next weeks from beatings, starvation, and cold during their internment in concentration camps. After the pogrom, with no future in the Third Reich, tens of thousands of Jews left the country, while the Nazi state enacted more centralized radical measures against the remainder of the German Jewish community. This state-sponsored Nazi pogrom has been recognized by scholars as the turning point in anti-Jewish policies toward mass violence and genocide. New and evolving research considers the attacks on Jewish homes and the plundering of Jewish goods. There are also substantial local and regional studies available.

General Historical Overviews

Although the historiography of the Nazi pogrom started very early, scholars published few studies until 1988, when the 50th anniversary of the violent event finally triggered considerable research and documentation. Since the late 1990s, more thorough analyses have been published based on a broader source base, which included postwar trials and survivor testimonies. In the 2010s, new syntheses drew from an abundance of local studies and the progress of new Holocaust research. Recently, new research avenues have opened up, and comparative studies have begun to appear.

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