Kristallnacht by Charlotte Salomon

Between circa 1940 and circa 1942.

This work is a gouache by Charlotte Salomon, part of her principal work Life? or Theatre?. It depicts the so-called Kristallnacht, a series of coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938. The gouache preceding depicts an edition of Der Angriff ( a Nazi newspaper) dealing with the pretext for the attacks, the murder of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan. The gouaches are placed by editors to commence the section New Section, Chapter One: And Time Marches On in the Main Section of the work.

There is a transparency thought to be associated with this gouache.

The text at the top left reads "Juda verrecke! Nehmt alles, was Ihr nehmen könnt!" ("Death to Jews! Grab what you can!") The picture depicts a row of houses with swastika flags hanging from every window. Below are Jewish shops with names like Levy and Cohen being looted by rioters. In the middle of the square a book-burning appears to be taking place. In the lower right three dejected detainees are being frogmarched away (Felstiner pp. 75-7).

Kristallnacht; literally "Crystal night" or the "Night of Broken Glass", was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians. The German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed.

Estimates of the number of fatalities caused by the pogrom have varied. Early reports estimated that 91 Jewish people were murdered during the attacks. Modern analysis of German scholarly sources by historians such as Richard J. Evans puts the number much higher. When deaths from post-arrest maltreatment and subsequent suicides are included, the death toll climbs into the hundreds. Additionally, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.

Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses were either destroyed or damaged.[5][6] Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world. The Times wrote at the time: "No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.

The attacks were retaliation for the assassination of the Nazi German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris.

November 9 [2017] marks the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass,” a major milestone in the persecution of Jews under the Third Reich and an unusually important event which took place in full public view, but whose significance was unfortunately not fully understood at the time....

The results were horrific. One thousand six hundred Jews were murdered (the official report by Heydrich listed only 91), approximately 1,500 synagogues were destroyed, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, more than 7,000 Jewish shops and department stores were vandalized or destroyed. In short, a horrific blow to German Jewry, who, adding insult and economic ruin to injury, were forced to pay a fine of one billion marks (about $400 million at 1938 rates) as a punishment.

The Nazis obviously viewed Kristallnacht as an opportunity to seriously advance their goal of the elimination of Jews from German society, which at that time they sought to achieve via expulsion and emigration. The question is, what gave them the sense that there would be virtually no severe consequences for such a dramatic assault on Jewish life and property? ....
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