Turning Point: the Anniversary of Kristallnacht and Why We Remember | Facing History & Ourselves
Picture of Jewish Merchants Remove Traces Of The Pogrom Of The Night (Kristallnacht).

Turning Point: the Anniversary of Kristallnacht and Why We Remember

Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) is a violent moment in history that demonstrates the consequences of both targeted hate and passivity from bystanders.

Facing History offers two compelling lessons: one that remembers Kristallnacht and another that helps contextualize how antisemitism, and other forms of bigotry, remain a pervasive threat in the 21st century.

Kristallnacht was a turning point in the mounting persecution of Jews by the Nazi party. Before these two days of terror, the campaign against German Jews had primarily been nonviolent. That all changed during the events of November 9-10, 1938 when the Gestapo formed mobs and took to the streets to destroy Jewish businesses and residences, killing 91 people and arresting 30,000 Jewish men. As over 200 synagogues burned across Germany, firefighters were instructed to stand by and hose the flames that licked surrounding buildings, but to do nothing to extinguish the core fires within any Jewish house of worship or dwelling. Despite this highly prominent and flagrant display of violence, Kristallnacht was widely ignored by the non-Jewish citizenry. This night signaled to many that Jewish people could no longer live safely in the German Reich.  

Learning about the brutal acts of Kristallnacht helps students make vital connections between the past and the present, where antisemitism persits and hate speech and assaults against Jews have increased alarmingly in recent years.

Facing History’s Contemporary Antisemitism program emphasizes the need to challenge the antisemitism of today in our classrooms and communities. To do this, we must study antisemitism throughout history—find the connections, see what moved people toward such malignant hate, and try to understand what we can all do to affect positive change. 

Lesson 1: Kristallnacht

Students learn about the violent pogroms of Kristallnacht by watching a short documentary and reflecting on eyewitness testimonies. They will then look closely at the range of choices made by individuals, groups, and countries—to participate in the attacks, to oppose attacks, to help the victims, or to look the other way—and connect those choices to universal concepts about human behavior in times of crisis.

Lesson 2: The Persistence of Hate: What the 2017 Unite the Right Rally Revealed about Contemporary Antisemitism 

This lesson is designed to help students better understand contemporary antisemitism in the United States through the case of the violence and turmoil of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Students will have the opportunity to investigate the historical roots of antisemitism and learn about how it has intertwined with white supremacy.

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