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Merkel: Kristallnacht ‘one of darkest moments in German history’

Ahead of 75th anniversary of pogrom, chancellor urges countrymen to ‘ensure no form of anti-Semitism is tolerated’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (photo credit: CC BY European People's Party - EPP, Flickr)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (photo credit: CC BY European People's Party - EPP, Flickr)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday cautioned her countrymen against the dangers of anti-Semitism, a week ahead of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a series of pogroms carried out against German Jews in 1938.

Speaking in her weekly podcast, Merkel called the violence of November 9, 1938 — “The Night of Broken Glass” as it’s known in English — “one of the darkest moments in German history,” AFP reported.

Merkel entreated all Germans “to show their civil courage and ensure that no form of anti-Semitism is tolerated.” She added that it was “almost inexplicable but also the reality that no Jewish institution can be left without police protection.”

Although after the Second World War there were as few as 15,000 Jews remaining in Germany, today that figure stands at almost 200,000, according to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the majority of whom immigrated after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kristallnacht destruction in Magdeburg (photo credit: German Federal Archive / Wikipedia Commons)
Kristallnacht destruction in Magdeburg (photo credit: German Federal Archive / Wikipedia Commons)

Some 90 Jews were killed in Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany, Austria and Gdansk — then the semi-autonomous free city of Danzig — on November 9, 1938, after Nazi officials and activists encouraged locals to target Jewish homes and businesses. Some 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. About 1,000 synagogues were burned, and thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and businesses were ransacked and demolished.

The Borneplatz synagogue on fire, Kristallnacht 1938
Frankfurt’s Borneplatz synagogue on fire, Kristallnacht 1938

The wide-scale violence was ostensibly launched in retaliation for the slaying of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by a Jewish 17-year-old boy from Hannover, Herschel Grynszpan, whose family had been deported to Poland by Nazi authorities.

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