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The Nazis inaugurated the two-day rampage against Jews, Jewish businesses and homes, and synagogues known as Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass) in Germany, Austria, and the occupied part of Czechoslovakia on this date in 1938. The trigger was the November 7th assassination of Ernst von Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris, by Herschel Grynszpan, in revenge for the expulsion of Polish Jews from Germany days earlier. More than 250 synagogues were torched during the pogrom, and more than 7,500 businesses were vandalized and looted; some 100 Jews were murdered, uncounted rapes took place, and about 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Most of these would be released after several months on the stipulation that they emigrate from Germany; some 115,000 Jews left the Reich in the weeks following Kristallnacht. A fine of $400 million was also levied on the Jewish community in Germany, and all insurance payments for the damages of the rioting were confiscated by the Nazi government. Kristallnacht was a major turning point in the “Aryanization” of Germany, and a major step in the implementation of Nazi plans to destroy the Jews.
“Mob law ruled in Berlin throughout the afternoon and evening and hordes of hooligans indulged in an orgy of destruction. I have seen several anti-Jewish outbreaks in Germany during the last five years, but never anything as nauseating as this. Racial hatred and hysteria seemed to have taken complete hold of otherwise decent people. I saw fashionably dressed women clapping their hands and screaming with glee, while respectable middle-class mothers held up their babies to see the ‘fun’.” —Hugh Greene, Daily Telegraph (Great Britain)