On this day in 1938 Nazi Germany's war on its Jews began in earnest, with a frenzy of looting and burning now known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass; this allegedly spontaneous outburst of anti-Semitism that purportedly took Nazi authorities by surprise was in fact organized by them as early as 1937, to be carried out by Hitler Youth and other such organizations when a suitable provocation could be found to justify it.
As a scapegoat, the Nazis chose Herschel Grynszpan, whose attack on a Paris-based German diplomat named Ernst vom Rath two days earlier - which was itself prompted by the inclusion of his family in mass expulsions from Germany which had taken place on October 18th - was used to justify the Nazi's extremism. In a classic bully move Grynszpan was not only roundly condemned as a murderer by the Nazi press but by extension all Jews became murderers; in this manner did the murderous Nazis routinely deflect such charges from themselves.
In all, more than 200 synagogues were destroyed and thousands of homes were similarly looted or burned, 92 Jews were murdered outright and as many as 30,000 were sent to concentration camps before the destruction ended the following day; reports vary, but the Führer himself may have even personally led the assault in München. According to eyewitness accounts, members of the public also assisted in the destruction* by throwing old newspapers, kerosene-soaked rags, and other such flammable items on their nearest conflagrations-in-waiting. Others looked on in horror, unable to act as their neighbours - many of whom had fought for their country in World War I - were displaced from their homes or arrested.
The events of Kristallnacht were widely condemned by the British and American media of the time, although their outrage in this instance didn't exactly move their governments to accept more Jewish immigrants, owing to the widespread anti-Semitism of the times.
Only recently, as the 70th anniversary of the event approached, an Israeli journalist named Yaron Svoray, himself an acclaimed hunter of Nazis and neo-Nazis, discovered a midden in the Brandenburg district north of Berlin - itself the size of four soccer pitches - which contains much of the night's plunder.
The story of the night's events are told in the slim yet thrilling volume, Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction by Martin Gilbert.
*Likely the same people whom, after the war, claimed not to know Hitler was genocidal - the same ones whose children and grandchildren now claim the Holocaust never happened, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
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