Starting in the early hours of 10 November 1938, and continuing until nightfall, violence against the Jews of Germany was unleashed in a whirlwind of destruction. Within a few hours more than a thousand synagogues were set on fire and destroyed. Where it was thought that fire might endanger nearby non-Jewish buildings, the rioters smashed the synagogues with hammers and axes. This was no spontaneous outburst of destruction, but a coordinated, comprehensive rampage.
In the streets Jews were chased, reviled and beaten up. Tens of thousands of Jewish shops and homes were ransacked. Jews were attacked in every German town, from the capital, Berlin, to the smallest towns and villages in which Jews lived throughout Hitler’s Reich. In twenty four hours of violence, ninety-one Jews were killed.
Within those twenty-four hours, more than 30,000 Jewish men between the ages of sixteen and sixty – a quarter of all Jewish men still in Germany – were arrested and sent to concentration camps. There they were tortured and tormented for several months. More than a thousand died in these camps. The name given to the night and day of terror was ‘Kristallnacht’: the Night of Broken Glass.