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Remembering the Kristallnacht Anniversary

A synagogue burns on Kristallnacht

Today and tomorrow are the infamous anniversary dates of what many believe to be the first overt strike of the Nazis on German and Austrian Jews: November 9 and 10 mark the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht.

The literal translation of Kristallnacht means “night of glass”; the term references the literal damage and carnage done by sledgehammer-wielding Germans.

The SS and Nazi sympathizers in Germany (but also in other German territories like Austria) systematically destroyed thousands of Jewish homes, stores, gathering places and synagogues, desecrated cemeteries, and killed close to 100 Jews; they arrested (and sent to concentration camps) countless others. Some “lucky” prisoners were released if they agreed to sign over all of their personal property and assets to “Aryans” and leave Germany. Soon after Kristallnacht, the Jewish community was told by the government that the regime held the Jews themselves responsible for the Kristallnacht damage; Jews were charged with paying to repair the rampage’s ruins. The fine totaled more than 1 billion reichsmarks. Other calculated measures to limit Jewish peoples’ financial and societal autonomy, including the confiscation of all Jewish drivers licenses, would soon follow.

The United States withdrew their ambassador from Germany, but took no further action in the wake of Kristallnacht.

About The Author: Andrea DeFusco-Sullivan is the Assistant Dean and Director of the Writing Program at The American College of History and Legal Studies.

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