It was 73 years ago this very day that the Nazis finally dropped all pretense and declared open warfare on Germany’s Jewish minority. After five years during which greater and greater legal debilities were placed upon the Jews by the Nazi government, all the masquerade of legality was dropped and mob violence was unleashed with the infamous Kristallnacht, or “Glassnight”, the night of shattered glass. The name derives from the smashed windows of Jewish homes and businesses, but also has a sense of breaking glass to release something, in this case the fury of bigotry.
Thousands of Jewish shops, offices, and places of business were looted and burned; tens of thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps “for their own safety.” At least a hundred Jews were killed by the mobs than night – the actual number is likely to have been far greater – and thousands were brutally beaten or raped. No one was prosecuted for either vandalism or murder, but rapists, perversely enough, were prosecuted by the Nazis; in their racist ideology, a rapist risked contaminating the Aryan purity of German blood, and could not be tolerated!
The situation for germany’s Jews rapidly worsened after “Kristallnacht.” Jews and other “inferior races” were deported in vast numbers to labor camps and death camps. Their property was confiscated – in some cases to help pay for the damages wrought in Kristallnacht! Though these people were still tax-paying German citizens, they were stripped of all rights and protections; as Harald Wertmuller noted, “because ALL Germans wished it so.”
By the time the Nazi regime had embarked upon its program of the subjugation of all Europe, no further question of laws nor of rights arose. They had power, and they had precedent within the nation and state of Germany. Some six million Jews and six million Gypsies, Slavics, homosexuals, cripples, insane, chronically ill, and other people labelled “Undesirable” perished in the Nazi death camps. One can understand the label “Holocaust,” “all-consuming fire.”
Kristallnacht was not authorized by any law, though burdensome legal restrictions had already been emplaced upon German Jews; it was sufficient for the legally elected government to simply ignore the mob barbarity. Kristallnacht was an almost inevitable outcome of a government which progressively debased and disenfanchised its own productive citizens.
I am deeply thankful that we in the United States of America have our Constitution, which – though it irritates many – specifically protects against an unrestrained tyranny of the majority. Letting the majority have its way without limit looks pretty good … until you find yourself in the minority.
Flower Mound, Texas