Nuremberg, Germany September 10, 1935

On this date in 1935 the Nazis convened their seventh annual Party con­gress in Nurem­berg completely fixated on the charis­matic savior-figure Adolf Hitler, Germany’s chan­cellor since January 1933. The 1935 “Rally of Free­dom” (Reichs­partei­tag der Frei­heit) touted Hitler’s wildly popu­lar rein­tegra­tion of the Saar region into the German Reich (from 1920 to 1935 the Territory of the Saar Basin was a League of Nations man­date sand­wiched between Germany and France), as well as the par­tial lifting of the hated Versail­les Treaty of 1919 that constrained Germany’s room to maneuver militarily.

The real news, however, was made by Reichs­tag mem­bers whose strings, in Hitler’s deft hands, drew them to Nurem­berg, the second-largest city in Bavaria after Munich. On Septem­ber 15 the pup­pet German parlia­ment passed the Nurem­berg Laws (Nuern­berger Gesetze) based on recom­men­da­tions of top-level anti-Semitic Nazi minis­ters and offi­cials meeting the month before, on August 20, 1935. Previous laws had allowed some Jews to avoid the Nazis’ discrimi­nation aimed at them. But with passage of the Nurem­berg Laws, there was no more wiggle room, no escape. A German Jew was clas­si­fied as Jude based on the person’s descent from three or four Jewish grand­parents, a Mischling (cross­breed) if descended from one or two. Evading dis­crimi­na­tion by con­verting to Chris­tianity was now ren­dered im­pos­sible. Thus, one Nurem­berg law for­bade mar­riage or extra­mari­tal rela­tions between Jews and “nationals of German or kind­red blood,” and the employ­ment of “German” females under forty-five in Jewish house­holds. A second law stripped German citizen­ship from persons not con­sidered of German blood and intro­duced a new distinc­tion between “Reich citizens” (Reichs­buerger)—pureblooded Germans—and “Reich nationals” (Staatsangehoerige).

The effect of these discriminatory statutory measures led straight to Kristall­nacht (“Night of Bro­ken Glass”), when care­fully orches­trated anti-Jewish vio­lence “erupted” through­out the Reich. Starting late on Novem­ber 9, 1938, and for the next 48 hours, Nazi rioters, which included pre-teens and teen­agers from the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls, burned or damaged nearly every syna­gogue in Germany and ran­sacked and smashed the win­dows of more than 7,500 busi­nesses, com­mu­ni­ty centers, schools, and homes. Jewish ceme­teries were des­e­crated. (Some Jews thought Kristall­nacht called shame on the German people; hence, they referred to the night as Scham­nacht, “Night of Shame.”) An estimated 400 Jews were murdered and 20,000 to 30,000 Jews between the ages of 10 and 80 were impri­soned or taken away to German con­cen­tration camps in the Novem­ber pogrom. Over the next 10 months more than 115,000 Jews would flee their home­land in Germany and Austria, the latter now part of the Greater German Reich. Heaping insult on injury, the Nazi govern­ment demanded that Jews sweep up the mess and pay one billion Reichs­marks ($401.6 million) into govern­ment coffers for property damage during Kristallnacht.

Written by acclaimed British historian Laurence Rees, Hitler’s Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss examines the German dictator’s life against the back­drop of histo­rical, social, and psycho­logical events in Germany and Austria that contrib­uted to the creation of a messi­anic national leader. Hero-worshiped by millions of Germans and Austrians, not to mention millions of other Euro­peans, Adolf Hitler fed on their hopes, desires, and feelings for the restora­tion of Germany’s prestige, influence, and power after its defeat in World War I. Rees augments his exami­na­tion with oral testi­monies of people who lived through the period of Hitler’s rise and dicta­tor­ship, pro­viding contem­porary insight as to why so many people put their faith in his charis­matic leader­ship.—Norm Haskett

Kristallnacht, November 9–10, 1938: Violent Turning Point in Nazi Germany’s Assault on Jews

Berlin storefront after KristallnachtBerlin’s Fasenenstrasse Synagogue after Kristallnacht

Left: Example of damage directed at Jewish busi­nesses during Kristall­nacht (literally “crystal night”). The German term alluded to the enormous number of windows shattered into tiny shards of glass during the night of van­dalism that tar­geted mostly syn­a­gogues and Jewish-owned shops. With Kristall­nacht the Nazis achieved three of their goals: confis­ca­tion of Jewish pro­perty by local branches of the Nazi Party to help finance the mili­tary build­up to war; increased separa­tion, margin­al­iza­tion, and iso­la­tion of German Jews (in cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods Jews were required to sell their homes at huge losses and move to other neigh­bor­hoods); and most impor­tantly, the move from the anti-Semitic policy of occu­pa­tional and eco­no­mic discrimi­nation to one of ethnic cleansing (mass murder of Jews, aka the Holo­caust), which con­tinued in the Third Reich and conquered territories until the end of World War II.

Right: Interior of Berlin’s Fasenenstrasse Synagogue, con­structed between 1910 and 1912 in the afflu­ent neigh­bor­hood of Char­lotten­burg off Kur­fuersten­damm, after it was set on fire during Kristall­nacht on the morning of Novem­ber 10, 1938 (perhaps not ironi­cally, Martin Luther’s birth­day). In Berlin 9 out of 17 syn­a­gogues were torched; in Vienna, the Austrian capital, 42. In all, over 1,000 synagogues were vandalized or destroyed.

Small Hessen synagogue burns on KristallnachtResidents of Ober Ramstadt watch synagogue burn on Kristallnacht

Left: Not even the smallest towns in Germany escaped the Nazis’ anti-Jewish pogrom. In this photo, a small syn­a­gogue in Ober Ram­stadt (Hessen, Germany), roughly 18 miles south of Frankfurt am Main, burns on Kristallnacht.

Right: As the Ober Ramstadt synagogue burned, local resi­dents watched fire­fighters instead save a near­by house. In some German cities, such as Cologne, police handed out axes and other tools of destruc­tion to trouble­makers in the mob, sup­plying them with a list of names and addresses of Jewish pro­per­ties for them to destroy. The mobs cut fire hoses when firefighters directed water onto Jewish properties.

Munich’s Herzog Rudolfstrasse synagogue after KristallnachtGerman Jews await deportation to Nazi concentration camp

Left: Munich’s Herzog Rudolfstrasse synagogue off Maxi­mil­lian­strasse, one of the city’s main boule­vards. By mid­night, Novem­ber 9, 1938, attacks on Jewish busi­nesses, schools, homes, and syn­a­gogues were occurring all over Germany and Austria prompted by a telex to regional and local police com­manders with orders from Hitler and tele­phone calls from Nazi Party leaders to their under­lings. Mobs roamed the streets shouting, “Beat the Jews to death!” or sang “When Jewish blood spurts from the knife, then things will go twice as nice.” In Munich, the first syn­a­gogues started burning at mid­night. In Berlin, Kristall­nacht was delayed until 2 a.m. on Novem­ber 10 so that the police would have time to pre­pare the rampage. They iden­ti­fied Jewish pro­per­ties that would be destroyed and set up road­blocks to keep traffic away from those areas. Police were instructed not to inter­fere with the rioters unless they resorted to looting or “other special excesses.” Looting happened any­way. Private homes were broken into, contents stolen or smashed, and books dumped in streets to be burned in piles with other Jewish books.

Right: ­As the looting and destruction wound down on Novem­ber 10, 1938, the arrests began. Jewish males of all ages were rounded up and marched through the streets as some of their Aryan (non-Jewish) neigh­bors hurled insults at them. In this photo­graph, Jews arrested after Kristall­nacht await depor­ta­tion to Dachau con­cen­tra­tion camp north of Munich. Others were sent to Buchen­wald and Sachsen­hausen concen­tra­tion camps. The treat­ment of camp inmates was brutal, but most were released and returned to their families within three months on the con­di­tion they leave Germany. Some returnees came back in coffins, their corpses displaying signs of torture. In the wake of Kristall­nacht about 25 per­cent of German Jews emi­grated to any coun­try that would accept them or else slipped into neigh­boring coun­tries illegally. (The United States threw up bureau­cratic barriers to Jewish immi­gra­tion, demanding to see birth certi­fi­cates, visa data, affi­da­vits of support from char­ac­ter wit­nesses who certi­fied the refugee had a job waiting, tax returns, bank state­ments, even “good conduct” cita­tions from German police and officials.) For many if not most of the unfor­tu­nates, emi­gra­tion meant turning their backs on their homes, busi­nesses, personal property, family and friends, pensions, and life savings for the unknown.

Kristallnacht, November 9–10, 1938: Holocaust Start Date