Looking Back At Kristallnacht
From the DJN Foundation Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History
Detroit Jewish News Foundation Archivist
It has been 80 years since Kristallnacht, “Crystal Night” or the “Night of Broken Glass.” This refers to a wave of extreme anti-Semitic violence in Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938. Because of the shooting of a Nazi official by a German-born Polish Jew in Paris, hordes of brown-shirted Nazi paramilitary troops and their civilian supporters went on a rampage and devastated Jewish communities in Germany.
They beat and arrested 30,000 Jews and sent them to concentration camps, killing 100 of them. An estimated 7,000 stores and 267 synagogues were destroyed. And, afterward, there was the broken glass that came from the windows of Jewish homes and businesses, so many shards that they glittered in the streets. It was later coined Kristallnacht. It was also one of the first major steps toward the Holocaust.
Of course, the Holocaust did not become known as “The Holocaust” until after the war; and the two days of violence, death and destruction was not characterized as “Kristallnacht” until after the event. In this respect, it is interesting to see the reports from those days in the Detroit Jewish Chronicle in the Davidson Digital Archives.
The front page of the Nov 11, 1938, issue of the Chronicle had this headline: “New Wave of Anti-Semitism in Germany and France as Result of Shooting of Nazi Official.” It was just one of five headlines across the top of the page.
In the next issue of the Chronicle, Nov. 18, there was growing recognition of the scale of the danger to Jews living in Nazi Germany. The headline was: “Roosevelt Leads Outraged World in Registering Protest Against Persecution of Jews in Germany.” One of the editorials was: “Barbarism in the Saddle.” It decried Germany’s descent from the status of a “great nation” and pleaded with Jews to “keep up their courage” and “not lose their nerve.” It would take more than faith and nerve to beat back the Nazis and end the Holocaust. It would take a second World War.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.