On the night of November 9, 1938, violent anti-Jewish demonstrations broke out across Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. Over the next 48 hours, violent mobs destroyed hundreds of synagogues, burning or desecrating Jewish religious artifacts along the way. 

Destruction of a synagogue in Aachen Germany; while Aachen was across the country from Forst (Lausitz), similar destruction was wrought on synagogues throughout Germany and beyond. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Acting on orders from Gestapo headquarters, police officers and firefighters did nothing to prevent the destruction. All told, approximately 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses, homes, and schools were plundered, and 91 Jews were murdered. An additional 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Nazi officials immediately claimed that the Jews themselves were to blame for the riots, and German Jews were fined for the destruction.

On the morning after Kristallnacht, local residents watch as the synagogue is destroyed by fire. The local fire department prevented the fire from spreading to a nearby home but did not try to limit the damage to the synagogue. Ober Ramstadt, Germany. November 10, 1938. Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Nazis came to call the event Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night,” or, “The Night of Broken Glass”), referring to the thousands of shattered windows that littered the streets afterwards. Kristallnacht was a turning point in the history of the Third Reich, marking the shift from antisemitic rhetoric and legislation to the violent, aggressive anti-Jewish measures that would culminate with the Holocaust.

Map of synagogues destroyed during Kristallnacht. Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Forst (Lausitz) was one of the many communities devastated by Kristallnacht. During that 48-hour period, Nazis looted the local synagogue and pillaged Jewish houses, destroying some dwellings completely. In the evening, ceremonial objects from the synagogue were set on fire at the square in front of the SA headquarters. The synagogue door was boarded up. Many Jews were severely battered, 31 people were arrested, and 22 people were deported to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. The companies Maier and Loewenstein were handed over to “Aryan hands.” 

The synagogue was not set on fire, as the Nazis feared that the flame would spread to the neighboring buildings; instead, the temple was pulled down. On November 14, 1938, Forst was declared free from Jewish business.

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