Walter Bingham: Reminiscences of ‘Kristallnacht’

Roundup: Talking About History

The writer is a resident of Jerusalem and host of the radio show Walter’s World.

Throughout the Jewish world, there were/will be meetings to commemorate "Kristallnacht," – or the night of the broken glass – from November 9 to 10, 1938.

That night, most synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the by then annexed Czechoslovakian Sudetenland were set alight, thousands of Jewish businesses were destroyed and almost 30,000 Jewish men sent off to concentration camps.

The trigger for these atrocities can be found in the events of a few years earlier. During 1938 the Polish authorities were concerned about the German annexation of Austria in March of that year and also about the increased persecution of German and Austrian Jews. It was not their welfare that concerned them, but they feared that the many Polish nationals among them would either want to or be forced to return to Poland. So in mid-October the Polish government issued a de-nationalization law which annulled the citizenship of Poles living abroad for more than five years, unless before the end of the month they received a special stamp into their passports from the Polish Consulates.

Not surprisingly, Jews were refused this facility.

German policy at the time was not yet the mass extermination of Jews, but to get them out of Germany; so when the Nazi regime learned that Polish officials would not stamp the passports of Jews, thereby making all of them stateless, without any nationality and hence without passports, they were concerned about their having to remain in Germany... 

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