The government sanctioned the action. People were beaten, arrested, and killed. Synagogues were burned, Torahs were desecrated, businesses were destroyed. Lives were shattered. After Kristallnacht, no one could doubt the Nazi's intentions toward the Jewish people.
In researching my (soon-to-be-released, I promise!) novel, The Path Divided, I interviewed a Jewish woman who lived in Munich in 1938. Her memories of that day are so vivid, I'll just paste them here.
"It happened to be the Yahrzeit of my father’s Mum, I think, so he went to the synagogue that morning. It was actually a little prayer hall as the Nazis had previously destroyed our big synagogue.Someone phoned our flat early on 9 November and told my Mum (who never found out who it was that called) to get out of Munich - they were arresting all Jewish males. My mother told my brother and me not to go to school/college that day and we would find our Dad at the synagogue. But when we got there in our little Opel Olympia car, we saw an SS man standing guard.
"My mum had got out of the car well before we got there and my brother and I saw her talk to this SS chap and then walk away in the opposite direction of the car. My brother, aged 17 who’d never had a driving lesson, bravely drove slowly along the pavement till we caught up with my Mum who indicated that he should drive round the next corner. He did, my Mum got in and, just on the off-chance of finding my Dad in his office, we drove there.
"We saw the shattered glass of Jewish shop windows as we parked the car. My Mum went up and we waited, then my brother went up and after a while they came down. My brother went to his college, my Dad had a valid passport on him and went to his sister in Luxemburg and my Mum and I went to my grandmother’s house.
"My brother came there a bit later as he realised it wasn’t safe for him at his college.
"I never went back to school until I got to England in 1939."
I asked her about the mood in her neighborhood in the days after Kristallnacht.
"Incredulity and embarrassment on the part of our non-Jewish friends and neighbours. But also a sort of passive acceptance of what the Nazis did."
As the recent shooting in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue shows, antisemitism still exists. My prayer this day is that we NEVER passively accept aggression against ANY group of people.
We must stand against any government or ideology that tries to divide us into US vs THEM.
WE MUST NEVER FORGET.