The Night of the Broken Glass (Kristallnacht)–the infamous Nazi rampage against Germany’s Jews–took place in November 1938. It was preceded by the confiscation of firearms from the Jewish victims. On Nov. 8, the New York Times reported from Berlin, “Berlin Police Head Announces ‘Disarming’ of Jews,” explaining:
The Berlin Police President, Count Wolf Heinrich von Helldorf, announced that as a result of a police activity in the last few weeks the entire Jewish population of Berlin had been “disarmed” with the confiscation of 2,569 hand weapons, 1,702 firearms and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. Any Jews still found in possession of weapons without valid licenses are threatened with the severest punishment.1
On the evening of Nov. 9, Adolf Hitler, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, and other Nazi chiefs planned the attack. Orders went out to Nazi security forces: “All Jewish stores are to be destroyed immediately . . . . Jewish synagogues are to be set on fire . . . . The Führer wishes that the police does not intervene. . . . All Jews are to be disarmed. In the event of resistance they are to be shot immediately.”2
All hell broke loose on Nov. 10: “Nazis Smash, Loot and Burn Jewish Shops and Temples.” “One of the first legal measures issued was an order by Heinrich Himmler, commander of all German police, forbidding Jews to possess any weapons whatever and imposing a penalty of twenty years confinement in a concentration camp upon every Jew found in possession of a weapon hereafter.”3 Thousands of Jews were taken away.
Searches of Jewish homes were calculated to seize firearms and assets and to arrest adult males. The American Consulate in Stuttgart was flooded with Jews begging for visas: “Men in whose homes old, rusty revolvers had been found during the last few days cried aloud that they did not dare ever again return to their places of residence or business. In fact, it was a mass of seething, panic-stricken humanity.”4