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12 November 1938

Posting date: 12 November 2008
SOURCE: FreeRepublic

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Columbia Encyclopedia: Kristallnacht [Ger.,=night of crystal], in German history, the night of Nov. 9, 1938, a night of violence against Jews and of destruction of the businesses and other property belonging to them. The name is a reference to the broken glass that resulted from the destruction.

Using the pretext of the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris, Goebbels urged Storm Troopers to stage violent reprisals. A night of rampages by Storm Troopers, the SS, and the Hitler Youth resulted in 91 Jewish dead, hundreds injured, and 7,500 businesses and 177 synagogues gutted. 

Additional references:

  • Night of broken glass - Google Search
  • Kristallnacht - Google Search
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  • Excerpt from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer:
    Murder and arson and pillage were not the only tribulations suffered by innocent German Jews as the result of the murder of Rath in Paris. The Jews had to pay for the destruction of their own property. Insurance monies due them were confiscated by the State. Moreover, they were subjected, collectively, to a fine of one billion marks as punishment, as Goering put it, "for their abominable crimes, etc." These additional penalties were assessed at a grotesque meeting of a dozen German cabinet ministers and ranking officials presided over by the corpulent Field Marshal on November 12, a partial stenographic record of which survives.

    A number of German insurance firms faced bankruptcy if they were to make good the policies on gutted buildings (most of which, though they harbored Jewish shops, were owned by Gentiles) and damaged goods. The destruction in broken window glass alone came to five million marks ($1,250,000) as a Herr Hilgard, who had been called in to speak for the insurance companies, reminded Goering; and most of the glass replacements would have to be imported from abroad in foreign exchange, of which Germany was very short.

    "This cannot continue!" exclaimed Goering, who, among other things, was the czar of the German economy. "We won't be able to last, with all this. Impossible!" And turning to Heydrich, he shouted, "I wish you had killed two hundred Jews instead of destroying so many valuables!"

    "Thirty-five were killed," Heydrich answered, in self-defense.

    Not all the conversation, of which the partial stenographic record runs to ten thousand words, was so deadly serious. Goering and Goebbels had a lot of fun arguing about subjecting the Jews to further indignities. The Propaganda Minister said the Jews would be made to clean up and level off the debris of the synagogues; the sites would then be turned into parking lots. He insisted that the Jews be excluded from everything: schools, theaters, movies, resorts, public beaches, parks, even from the German forests. He proposed that there be special railway coaches and compartments for the Jews, but that they be made available only after all Aryans were seated.

    "Well, if the train is overcrowded," Goering laughed, "we'll kick the Jew out and make him sit all alone all the way in the toilet."

    When Goebbels, in all seriousness, demanded that the Jews be forbidden to enter the forests, Goering replied, "We shall give the Jews a certain part of the forest and see to it that various animals that look damned much like Jews—the elk has a crooked nose like theirs—get there also and become acclimated."

    In such talk, and much more like it, did the leaders of the Third Reich while away the time in the crucial year of 1938.

    But the question of who was to pay for the 25 million marks' worth of damage caused by a pogrom instigated and organized by the State was a fairly serious one, especially to Goering, who now had become responsible for the economic well-being of Nazi Germany. Hilgard, on behalf of the insurance companies, pointed out that if their policies were not honored to the Jews, the confidence of the people, both at home and abroad, in German insurance would be forfeited. On the other hand, he did not see how many of the smaller companies could pay up without going broke.

    This problem was quickly solved by Goering. The insurance companies would pay the Jews in full, but the sums would be confiscated by the State and the insurers reimbursed for a part of their losses. This did not satisfy Herr Hilgard, who, judging by the record of the meeting, must have felt that he had fallen in with a bunch of lunatics. German insurance would be forfeited. On the other hand, he did not see how many of the smaller companies could pay up without going broke.

    GOERING: The Jew shall get the refund from the insurance company but the refund will be confiscated. There will remain some profit for the insurance companies, since they won't have to make good for all the damage. Herr Hilgard, you may consider yourself damned lucky.

    HILGARD: I have no reason to. The fact that we won't have to pay for all the damage, you call a profit!

    The Field Marshal was not accustomed to such talk and he quickly squelched the bewildered businessman.
    GOERING: Just a moment! If you are legally bound to pay five millions and all of a sudden an angel in my somewhat corpulent shape appears before you and tells you that you may keep one million, for heaven's sake isn't that a profit? I should like to go fifty-fifty with you, or whatever you call it. I have only to look at you. Your whole body seethes with satisfaction. You are getting a big rake-off!
    The insurance executive was slow to see the point.
    HILGARD: All the insurance companies are the losers. That is so, and remains so. Nobody can tell me differently.

    GOERING: Then why don't you take care of it that a few windows less are being smashed!

    The Field Marshal had had enough of this commercial-minded man. Herr Hilgard was dismissed, disappearing into the limbo of history.

    A representative of the Foreign Office dared to suggest that American public opinion be considered in taking further measures against the Jews. This inspired an outburst from Goering: "That country of scoundrels! . . . That gangster state!"

    After further lengthy discussion it was agreed to solve the Jewish question in the following manner: eliminate the Jews from the German economy; transfer all Jewish business enterprises and property, including jewelry and works of art, to Aryan hands with some compensation in bonds from which the Jews could use the interest but not the capital. The matter of excluding Jews from schools, resorts, parks, forests, etc., and of either expelling them after they had been deprived of all their property or confining them to German ghettos where they would be impressed as forced labor, was left for further consideration by a committee.

    As Heydrich put it toward the close of the meeting: "In spite of the elimination of the Jews from economic life, the main problem remains, namely, to kick the Jew out of Germany." Count Schwerin von Krosigk, the Minister of Finance, the former Rhodes scholar who prided himself on representing the "traditional and decent Germany" in the Nazi government, agreed "that we will have to do everything to shove the Jews into foreign countries." As for the ghettos, this German nobleman said meekly, "I don't imagine the prospect of the ghetto is very nice. The idea of the ghetto is not a very agreeable one."

    At 2:30 P.M.—after nearly four hours—Goering brought the meeting to a close.

    "I shall close the meeting with these words: German Jewry shall, as punishment for their abominable crimes, et cetera, have to make a contribution for one billion marks. That will work. The swine won't commit another murder. Incidentally, I would like to say that I would not like to be a Jew in Germany."
    William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp. 431-434


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