On November 9/10th, 1938 mobs went on the rampage throughout Nazi Germany. This wave of pogroms, which became known as "Kristallnacht" (The night of the broken glass) was the severest eruption of violence perpetrated against the Jews of Germany until the onset of the deportations and annihilations during the war. The riots were to have far-reaching consequences for the status and conditions of German Jewry.
1938 was a calamitous year for the German Jewish community. It was in 1938 that Hitler's drive for political and territorial aggrandizement reached its peak (the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland without war), and it was a year that witnessed the spread of the most sweeping anti-Jewish edicts in a continuing campaign of discrimination and persecution. Under the "Names decree" every Jew had to assume in addition to his or her first name the identifying name of Israel or Sarah. Passports of Jews were stamped with the letter "J" in red, signifying Jude. Jewish property was expropriated by various laws and regulations, and official recognition of the public standing of the Jewish communities was annulled.
The Anschluss - the annexation of Austria to the German Reich in March 1938, set in motion a process of coercive measures intended to force the Jews out of that country. Overseeing the implementation of this policy was Adolf Eichmann (who later on, during the war, was in charge of facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German-occupied Eastern Europe; captured after the war by Israeli Mossad operatives in Argentina and abducted to Israel to face trial on charges including crimes against humanity and war crimes; found guilty and executed by hanging in 1962).
In July 1938, thirty-two countries sent representatives to an international conference held at Evian in the heart of a French resort district, with the purpose of finding a haven for refugees from the Third Reich. However, it soon became apparent that the free democracies were unwilling to offer the refugees a home. The gates of the world remained shut.
In Germany itself, Jews of Russian nationality were ordered to leave the country. Subsequently, following restrictions Poland had placed on the right of citizenship of its nationals residing abroad, the German authorities decided to expel Jews bearing Polish citizenship, even though many of them had lived in Germany for decades.
In October 1938, 17,000 Jews were removed from their homes throughout Germany, taken to the Polish border and forced across to the other side with no possessions but the clothes on their backs.
On November 7th, a Jewish youth named Herschel Grynszpan, whose parents were among those expelled to Poland, shot and killed an official in the German embassy in Paris. The assassination served as the pretext for "Kristallnacht", an outbreak of the Nazi Party and the SA (Storm Troopers) with the concurrence and encouragement of the Nazi leadership. The signal to start the operation was given by the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.
During that night 171 synagogues were set ablaze and many others destroyed: 7,500 shops and businesses of Jews were ransacked and vandalized (it was the shattered plate-glass windows of the shops that gave the mass pogrom its name "KRISTALLNACHT" - 'the night of the broken glass"), 91 Jews were murdered and some 30,000 were thrown into concentration camps.
The events of "Kristallnacht" were a watershed in the history of German Jewry. It marked the Nazis' shift from discrimination through legislation and decrees to brutal street violence - a portent of what lay in store for the Jews.
The stamp was issued in 1988. Designer: D. Pessah.