Kristallnacht--70 Years Later: Never Forget

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt Kenneth Gentner
  • 423rd Security Forces Squadron
It was a night that will be forever remembered in history. Kristallnact--or Night of the Broken Glass--was a two-day, state-sponsored rampage of murder, chaos, and destruction across Germany that began on November 9th, 1938. 

Nazi storm troopers--acting under orders from Adolf Hitler's inner circle--engaged in a systematic wave of violence against German Jews. Before the dust had settled, over 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses were looted, 1,000 Synagogues were burned to the ground, and 91 Jews lost their lives. 

It began with an assassination. Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew entered the German Embassy in Paris and shot a young German diplomat to death. The attack was in retaliation for Germany's forced deportation of 12,000 Jews. Among those forcibly exiled from Germany to Poland were Grynszpan's parents. As news of the murder spread, the Third Reich used the crime as a vehicle to mask orchestrated, deliberate acts disguised as civil unrest toward Jewish citizens of Germany. Hitler and his closest henchmen directed cells of soldiers to carry out the vicious attacks across their own country in attempts to answer what the Reich had classified as the "Jewish Question." The Nazis' ultimate goal wouldn't be known to the world for years. 

Dressed as civilians wearing street clothing, it was easier to incite the local populations into participating and adding to the belief the citizens of Germany had acted without government prodding. Within hours, even women and young children had joined the disguised soldiers in ransacking homes, starting fires, and looting shops. This created a perfect alibi for Hitler's men in the court of world opinion: it would appear the people, not the government, were exacting vengeance against all Jews for the actions of one.
Nazi-inspired hatred for the Jews skyrocketed as pockets of cities burned. The Reich succeeded in shifting total blame for the riots to their intended victims. Popular opinion was steered through the use of the propaganda juggernaut of the Third Reich. 

The rest is history. 

As defenders on frontiers of freedom, we must never lose sight of why we fight. We must stand vigilant against those who seek to destroy liberty. We must fiercely confront the tyrants, terrorists, and dictators who share Hitler's quest for power through tyranny. We must be ever mindful of history's battlefields as we stand in the gap between freedom and despotism, or we resign ourselves to another Kristallnacht. 

Never forget.