The significance of Kristallnacht

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Increased anti-Jewish measures

Following the events of 9-10 November 1938, many laws were enacted that effectively banished Jews from most areas of public life.

Hard-line antisemitism was now being followed through into ruthless legislation, expelling Jews from Germany’s social and political life. 

Germany was now an extremely dangerous place for Jews to live in and many sought to leave the country by any means possible.

Reacting to public opinion, some countries allowed limited immigration of Jews, but in the main a tight quota system was enforced.


Use the information from the text and slides (above) to help you produce a flow chart or mindmap that will help you answer the question: 'How significant were the events of 9 and 10 November 1938?'

  • Make sure that you plot the events leading up to, during and after Kristallnacht.
  • Include the actions of the Nazis, the world, Herschel Grynspan, the Jews.
  • Finally, assess how life changed for the Jews of Germany and Austria as a result of the events of 9 and 10 November 1938.


Polish Jews expelled

"Any further immigration of non-Germans is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who entered Germany after August 2, 1914, be forced to leave the Reich without delay." 

(Clause 8 of the NSDAP programme, February 1920)

In Hitler’s manifesto of 24 February 1920 he had promised to expel Polish-born Jews living in Germany.

Herschel Grynspan

Beginning in August 1938 the Nazis rounded up 60,000 Jews and expelled them over the Polish border.

The son of one such family, Herschel Grynspan, was studying in Paris. To bring the world’s attention to the plight of his people, on 7th November 1938 he went to the German Embassy and shot a diplomat, Ernst Von Rath.

National press campaign

Back in Germany, the Nazi leadership used this as an excuse to begin a national press campaign against the Jews. On 8 November Nazis attacked Jews, smashed up Jewish-owned buildings.

On 9 November the diplomat died. That afternoon Joseph Goebbels gave a speech attacking the Jews and calling for an organised pogrom.  The SA were used to organise further attacks against Jews, their shops, homes and synagogues. The night became known as 'Kristallnacht' or 'The night of the broken glass'.

Instructions to the police

The police were instructed not to intervene to stop the attacks. (See slides above for Reinhardt Heydrich's order to the police)

The fire brigade were called out to protect non-Jewish businesses and homes, but not to put out the fires in Jewish-owned buildings.

During the night of 9 November, 91 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured. Many hundreds of Jewish males over the age of 14 were taken away to prisons or concentration camps. Over the days, weeks and months that followed, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken away to concentration camps.