The so-called “Kristallnacht” is the first mass pogrom against the Jews in Germany. It happened on the night of November 9, 1938 into the early morning hours of the next day and was the first indication of what was to come later with the Jewish holocaust.
It was called Kristallnacht because the Nazis raided Jewish property, smashing the windows of many of their shops.
It all started two days earlier, when a German Jew, Herschel Griespan, killed the secretary of the German embassy, Ernst von Rath, in Paris. The murder of the German diplomat was used as an excuse for attacks against Jews throughout Germany. Ostensibly, these attacks were spontaneous, but in reality they were “orchestrated” by the Nazi government.
During Kristallnacht, 1,574 synagogues, over 7,000 Jewish shops and 29 department stores were destroyed, while 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The number of German Jews killed is unclear. Estimates range from 36 to 200, with the dead including several non-Jews who had the misfortune to look alike.
The event caused a worldwide outcry. In protest, the US and many other countries severed diplomatic relations with Germany.