Books About Kristallnacht: Essential Reads for Understanding The Tragic Event

Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, was a violent pogrom that took place in Nazi Germany on November 9-10, 1938. This event was a turning point in the persecution of Jews, as thousands of Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues were attacked and destroyed. The 80th anniversary of this tragic event allows us to reflect on the lasting impact Kristallnacht had and learn from history to prevent such horrendous acts from occurring again.

To gain a better understanding of Kristallnacht and its significance, several insightful books have been written to provide both historical context and personal perspectives from those who experienced it firsthand. These books delve into the events that led up to the pogrom, analyze its aftermath, and shed light on the experiences of the victims and their families. By reading these books, readers can develop a more comprehensive grasp of the social, political, and personal ramifications of Kristallnacht.

The following list of books offers a starting point for those interested in learning more about Kristallnacht. Each book takes a unique approach to the topic, exploring various aspects of this dark period in history and commemorating the resilience and courage of those affected by the Nazi regime’s violence and persecution.

Understanding Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, occurred on November 9-10, 1938. It was a violent pogrom against Jewish people in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland orchestrated by the Nazi leadership. This tragic event marked a significant shift in the persecution of Jews during the Nazi regime, with the destruction of Jewish-owned businesses, synagogues, and the arrest of thousands of Jewish individuals.

The term “Reichskristallnacht” is another name used for this horrific event, emphasizing its status as a coordinated attack throughout the whole German Reich. The name “Night of Broken Glass” refers to the shattered glass from synagogues, homes, and businesses of Jewish families that littered the streets in the aftermath of these attacks.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of Kristallnacht, it is essential to explore the political and social climate that led up to this infamous incident. The Jewish population in Germany had faced increasing discrimination and violence since the Nazis took power in 1933. Anti-Semitic policies had gradually intensified, culminating in the horrific events of November 1938.

Several key books can provide valuable insight into Kristallnacht and its impact on Jewish lives and the broader historical context. “The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, is a personal account of a Dutch watchmaker involved in the resistance against the Nazis. This book provides an intimate understanding of the personal struggles and resilience of individuals affected by these tragic events.

Another essential book is “New Perspectives on Kristallnacht: After 80 Years, the Nazi Pogrom in Global Comparison, which offers in-depth analyses and discussions from various experts. This academic work explores the broader historical significance of Kristallnacht and its connections to other policies and events during the Nazi regime.

In summary, understanding Kristallnacht requires an exploration of the social, political, and historical context surrounding the event. The Night of Broken Glass marked a significant turning point in the persecution of Jews under the Nazi regime. Learning about this era through books such as “The Hiding Place” and “New Perspectives on Kristallnacht can help readers gain a more in-depth understanding of the complexities and tragedies faced by Jewish individuals during this dark chapter of history.

The Events of Kristallnacht

The Pogrom

Kristallnacht, also known as the “Night of Broken Glass,” took place on November 9-10, 1938, in Germany, Austria, and parts of Czechoslovakia. It marked a turning point in the persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime, as a series of coordinated violent attacks against Jewish communities led to widespread destruction and loss of life.

During the Kristallnacht, thousands of Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses were attacked, and approximately 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Many historians see this event as the beginning of the end for the Jewish population in Nazi Germany.

Destruction of Synagogues

Over the course of the two-day pogrom, rioters targeted Jewish synagogues with particular ferocity. Synagogues were vandalized, desecrated, and burned, leaving many local Jewish communities without a place to worship.

In Berlin alone, more than 75 synagogues were destroyed by fire or otherwise heavily damaged. Synagogues across Austria and other parts of Germany met a similar fate, with hundreds more succumbing to attacks. These targeted acts of violence were carried out by both civilians and paramilitary groups, while police officers and firefighters stood idly by, under orders from the Gestapo.

Attacks on Jewish Businesses

In addition to the destruction of synagogues, Kristallnacht saw widespread attacks on Jewish-owned businesses. Rioters smashed windows, looted stores, and destroyed property, creating a significant economic toll on the Jewish community. Many of the Jewish business owners had their assets seized, and a new wave of oppressive regulations followed, further limiting their economic rights.

The November pogroms disrupted the lives of Jews across the involved regions, leaving them with few options for escape. The Nazis continued their campaign of brutality and persecution, ultimately culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust. Kristallnacht remains a dark and painful reminder of the consequences of hatred and prejudice.

Key Figures in Kristallnacht

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, played a crucial role in the events of Kristallnacht. Although he did not directly order the violence, his anti-Semitic policies and rhetoric laid the groundwork for it. His influence over the Nazi Party led to an environment where violence against Jews was seen as justified and encouraged.

Joseph Goebbels

Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda for the Nazi Party, was directly involved in the orchestration of Kristallnacht. In response to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, Goebbels delivered a speech on November 9, 1938, calling for violent retaliation against Jewish interests. His strategic use of propaganda and messaging incited the riots and destruction that followed.

Hermann Göring

As a high-ranking Nazi official, Hermann Göring played a significant role in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. He criticized the chaotic nature of the violence and expressed concern that it would result in property damage and economic loss. In response, he organized a meeting on November 12, where he implemented measures designed to further marginalize and oppress the Jewish population, effectively punishing them for the widespread destruction.

Herschel Grynszpan

Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, was the catalyst for Kristallnacht. On November 7, 1938, he assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat, in Paris in retaliation for his family’s deportation from Germany. His actions provided the Nazis with a pretext for launching the widespread pogrom against Jews, arguing that the Jewish community was responsible for this violent act.

Ernst vom Rath

Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat stationed in Paris, was assassinated by Herschel Grynszpan on November 7, 1938. His death was used as an excuse for the events of Kristallnacht, as Nazi leadership argued that his killing justified a violent response against the Jewish community.

Aftermath and Impact

The Holocaust

In the years following Kristallnacht, the intensified persecution of the Jewish community in Nazi Germany led to the systematic genocide known as the Holocaust. As the Third Reich invaded and occupied other European countries, the Nazis extended their policy of anti-Semitism, leading to the establishment of numerous concentration camps, such as Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. These camps became the sites of mass extermination as part of the Nazis’ “Final Solution” to eliminate Europe’s Jewish population.

Over the course of World War II, approximately six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Alongside Jewish men, women, and children, other minority groups, such as LGBTQIA+ people and disabled individuals, were also targeted by the Nazis, resulting in a total death toll of 11 million people. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, survivors worked to rebuild their lives and the Jewish community worldwide. The tragic events of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust serve as stark reminders of the consequences of unchecked hatred and the importance of fighting for human rights and tolerance.

World War II

The impact of Kristallnacht reverberated beyond the Jewish community, significantly influencing World War II. As one of the most significant turning points leading up to the war, Kristallnacht was a clear indication of the brutality and horrifying intent of the Nazi regime.

The international community’s response to Kristallnacht was varied, with many countries condemning the violence, while others remained silent. Some countries, such as Great Britain, took direct action by organizing rescue programs like the Kindertransport, which saved thousands of Jewish children by bringing them to safety. However, many nations did not take any steps to help those affected, leading to debates about the failure of the international community to respond adequately to the atrocities committed against the Jewish people.

As World War II continued, the reality of the concentration camps and genocide prompted the Allied forces to strengthen their efforts to defeat the Nazis and end their reign of terror. In the post-war period, Germany faced a long and difficult process of denazification, rebuilding, and coming to terms with the horrifying deeds committed by the Third Reich. The memory of Kristallnacht remains an important and haunting reminder of the consequences of unchecked aggression, prejudice, and hate.

Eyewitness Accounts and Survivors Stories

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When studying Kristallnacht, it is essential to explore the personal accounts and stories of those who witnessed or survived this tragic event. One of the key resources providing valuable insight into the experiences of people affected by the atrocities committed on the Night of Broken Glass is the book “The Night of Broken Glass: Eyewitness Accounts of Kristallnacht” edited by Uta Gerhardt and Thomas Karlauf. This riveting work contains a collection of 21 eyewitness accounts by German Jews who experienced the horror of November 9th, 1938.

Survivors’ stories offer an exceptional opportunity to comprehend the impact of the event on individuals and their families. “The diary of Anne Frank” is a remarkable example, illustrating the life of a young Jewish girl forced into hiding during the Holocaust. Even though Anne Frank’s diary does not specifically refer to Kristallnacht, her writing highlights the overall situation and treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.

The Kindertransport was a rescue mission that saved nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied territories and brought them to Great Britain. Many of these children had experienced the terror of Kristallnacht, and their individual testimonies shed light on the perseverance and courage of these young individuals. Some notable memoirs and testimonies include:

  • Kindertransport” by Olga Levy Drucker: This book presents the author’s personal account of traveling from Germany to the United States on the Kindertransport.
  • Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport” by Mark Jonathan Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer: This volume provides a collection of firsthand accounts from Kindertransport survivors, vividly presenting their unique experiences.

These authentic survivor accounts and eyewitness testimonies not only help in understanding the magnitude of the devastating events that took place during Kristallnacht but also instill a deep sense of empathy and compassion for the individuals involved. As we explore the stories of these survivors and witnesses, we gain a profound understanding of the resilience and strength displayed by the Jewish community during this dark period.

An Academic Perspective

Holocaust Studies

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Within Holocaust studies, scholars have dedicated extensive research to the examination of Kristallnacht, an event that marked a turning point in anti-Semitic policies and the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. By analyzing the causes, events, and aftermath of Kristallnacht, these academic works provide valuable insight for those seeking a comprehensive understanding of the historical context and significance. One notable publication is “Holocaust: A History” by Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, where the authors emphasize how “The pogrom of 9 November 1938 was the end of the beginning; the 10th of November was the beginning of the end.”

Origin and Impacts Study

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Another area of study focuses on the origin and impacts of Kristallnacht, examining the complexity of its inception and the global consequences that followed. For example, “New Perspectives on Kristallnacht: After 80 Years, the Nazi Pogrom in Global Comparison, edited by Steven J. Ross, consists of a collection of essays comparing the events of Kristallnacht with other pogroms and genocides worldwide. Not only does this book provide a richer understanding of the Nazi regime’s actions, but it also helps contextualize Kristallnacht on a global scale.

Education about the Holocaust and Kristallnacht is important not only for historical accuracy but also for addressing contemporary issues of racism, prejudice, and human rights. In order to ensure that future generations learn and understand this dark chapter in history, curriculum designers and educators should include these academic works on Kristallnacht in Holocaust studies and related educational programs.

Depiction in Nonfiction Literature


Nonfiction literature about Kristallnacht often features biographies of key figures involved in the events or significantly affected by them. These biographies provide insightful firsthand accounts and present the perspectives of those who experienced, witnessed, and documented the events of November 9-10, 1938. One notable author in this category is Martin Gilbert, a well-respected British historian who has authored numerous books about the Holocaust. Gilbert’s works contain detailed accounts of Kristallnacht and its immediate aftermath, examining the event from multiple angles and providing readers with valuable context and historical understanding.


In addition to biographies, there are also auto-biographies written by survivors and witnesses of Kristallnacht. These works provide a more personal account of the events, often focusing on the struggles and experiences of a single individual. By sharing their unique and often heart-wrenching stories, these writers have played a crucial role in preserving the memory of Kristallnacht and educating future generations about the devastating impact of hatred and discrimination.

These firsthand accounts are an essential part of the larger body of nonfiction literature that explores and documents the events surrounding Kristallnacht. Through both biographies and auto-biographies, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and devastating consequences that resulted from this night of terror, as well as the resilience and courage of those who lived through it.

Kristallnacht in Popular Culture

Kristallnacht, or the November Pogrom, holds a significant place in popular culture, with numerous books portraying the harrowing incidents that unfolded on November 9-10, 1938. The event witnessed the devastation of Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues by the Nazi regime, and resulted in the death and arrest of countless Jews.

The Hiding Place

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The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, Elizabeth, and John Sherrill is a widely-acclaimed representation of Kristallnacht. It tells the story of a Dutch watchmaker who becomes involved in the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis. The book not only highlights the atrocities, but also the resilience and courage people displayed in response to the situation.

The Wind Knows My Name

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Isabel Allende, a renowned author, explores the pogrom in her novel “The Wind Knows My Name.” This work brings to light the dark chapter of the Nazi regime’s destruction of Jewish lives and properties. The book received rave reviews and achieved a rating of 4.06 on Goodreads, leaving a lasting impact on readers.

The Tortoises



Another noteworthy perspective on Kristallnacht comes from the Canetti family. Veza Canetti, a lesser-known writer, is known for her novel “The Tortoises” penned in exile after fleeing Vienna for Paris and ultimately settling in London. The novel remains a significant work of art within Holocaust literature.

For those interested in historical analysis and structure, Dr. Steinweis’ work in Holocaust studies is recommended. As a Miller Distinguished Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont, Dr. Steinweis offers a fresh view on the pogrom by drawing connections not previously examined.

In conclusion, the literature surrounding Kristallnacht showcases various facets of the event, such as impact on individual lives, collective experiences, and historical interpretations. These works contribute significantly to the understanding of the Nazi regime, Gestapo’s actions, and Hitler’s persecution of Jews during this dark period in history.

Lessons from Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, was a turning point in Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews. It serves as a crucial point in history to educate people about the dangers of hatred and prejudice, as well as to offer a chance to learn from the past. In this section, we will explore some of the key takeaways from the event and the importance of education in addressing such issues.

One of the main lessons from Kristallnacht is the consequences of unchecked hatred and dehumanization. As a society, it is essential for us to recognize the signs of scapegoating and discrimination, and to take appropriate measures to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. Through education, individuals can learn about the cultural, social, and psychological factors that contributed to the Holocaust, and develop a better understanding of how to confront bigotry and intolerance in their own lives.

Another significant lesson from Kristallnacht is the importance of standing up against injustice and oppression. During the Night of Broken Glass, many people remained passive or indifferent to the violence perpetrated against their Jewish neighbors. By educating ourselves about the experiences of those who lived through Kristallnacht, we can learn the value of solidarity and empathy, and the powerful impact that individual acts of courage and kindness can have in challenging times.

Finally, Kristallnacht illustrates the role of misinformation and propaganda in perpetuating hate and division. The Nazi regime capitalized on existing anti-Semitic sentiments and manipulated the public through distorted narratives and sensationalism. In today’s age of information, it is crucial for individuals to develop critical thinking skills and the ability to discern credible sources, in order to promote informed, rational, and compassionate discourse.

In conclusion, Kristallnacht serves as a powerful reminder of the devastating consequences of unchecked hatred and injustice. By incorporating lessons from this historical event into our educational system, we take an essential step towards fostering a more tolerant, empathetic, and responsible society.