November 9 marked the 78th anniversary of a series of violent attacks against Jews spread across Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Known as Kristallnacht, or “the night of broken glass,” it was the most open and violent attack on Jews by the Nazi regime up until that time. The aftermath was devastating: between 1,500 and 3,000 Jews were killed; 30,000 were sent to concentration camps; over 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed; and synagogues across Germany were burned down.
Despite the widespread outrage, Kristallnacht was not enough to make the rest of the world act to head off disaster. Some individuals did manage to save lives, often in spite of their governments, but overall, the international response was ineffective. The increase in German aggression and the refugee crisis it created, deepened the peril in which German Jews found themselves and they began seeking ways out of Germany.
Remembering Kristallnacht gives us the opportunity to reflect on the agency of individuals, groups, and nations in historical context. By doing this, we can better understand the possibility and power of the choices available to us today.
Watch our mini-documentary about Kristallnacht and the larger implications it had for Jews across Europe. You’ll find this and more in the revised digital version of our resource, Holocaust and Human Behavior. In celebration of 40 years of Facing History and Ourselves, this new edition offers full digital access for educators to a vast array of new scholarship, primary source material, and a wealth of images, videos, and audio never before compiled in a single resource, that are ready for classroom use. Stay tuned for the print book, pdf, and e-book, which will be published in early 2017.
Photo credit: bpk, Berlin/Paulmann, Karl / Art Resource, NY