“I did not hear fire engines and we understood”: Kristallnacht


[Note: I am in the process of closing out the two blogs I created before this one and am transferring their contents here, so please bear with the sudden appearance of these “old” essays &cet.]

By Scott Ross

9 November, 2013. In a Weekend Edition Saturday piece commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander notes of what translates to The Night of the Broken Glass, “I did not hear fire engines and we understood then that they didn’t come because they wanted the synagogues to burn. We never thought that Germans would stand by, and not do something about it.”

Kristallnacht more properly translates, colloquially, as “The Night of the Broken Crystal.” The symbolism was plain: Jews enjoy their ill-gotten luxury while “real” Germans starve; let us smash their riches, and their owners. The anti-Semitism had been building, of course, but with the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst von Rath by the Polish-Jewish Herschel Grynszpan, the Nazis (via the S.A.) finally had their excuse for widespread, and rampant, terrorism against the Jews of Germany and Austria.

Herschel Grynszpan - Nazi propaganda

Herschel Grynszpan as depicted in the Nazi press: As a stereotypically bloodthirsty, hook-nosed thug.

Herschel Grynszpan

Herschel Grynszpan as he actually was.

Between 9 and 10 November 1938, 1000 synagogues burned; 7000 Jewish businesses were destroyed; 30000 Jews were arrested and 91 murdered — a tiny foretaste of the genocidal horror to come.

Shattered Window of a Store


Kristallnacht - Heitingers

Kristallnacht - Synagogue in flames

Kristallnacht - stained glass

Magdeburg, zerstörtes jüdisches Geschäft

Kristallnacht - synagogue

Kristallnacht - Baden Baden synaogue


To what was no doubt its own vast amusement, the German government then fined the Jews of Germany for the cost of the damages.

A pair of anti-Semitic cartoons of the period:

The Eternal Jew poster

Poster for the infamous Nazi “documentary” The Eternal Jew.

“Never again?” Hardly. The world has “stood by and done nothing” countless times since 1938 (including as the Israeli government commits atrocities against Palestinians) and will doubtless do so again.

In the Weekend Edition piece cited above, Stefan Redlich, spokesman for the Berlin police is quoted as saying, “The Berlin police protects all Jewish schools, all hospitals, all kindergartens and all synagogues in the city” [while] “noting that 250 policemen stand guard in front of Jewish properties throughout the city.

“But German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said she is not proud of this fact: ‘I feel deep shame that there is not a single Jewish building in Germany without police protection because we still have to worry about anti-Semitic attacks.’

“Merkel’s concerns are justified. On last year’s Kristallnacht anniversary, vandals in the northeastern city of Greifswald removed a number of cobblestone memorials.

“Seventy-five years on, though, Germans refuse to stand by and watch. To mark this anniversary, they are taking to the streets — chamois leather in hand — to polish the brief, brass biographies that serve as a daily reminder of lives cut short by the Holocaust.”


Meanwhile, in the former Soviet Union, where the population eagerly acts on Putin’s cynical (because unrelated to his actual beliefs, or feelings) tacit approval of pogroms against gay Russians with salivating bloodlust, preparations are under way for the Winter Olympics. A good time, perhaps, to invoke this Jewish Chronicle cartoon, published as Herr Hitler and his minions played host to the 1936 Olympiad.

Olympic Courtesy c40-3

Never forget? Never again?

Don’t make me laugh.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

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