Kristallnacht – the Night of the Broken Glass – took place on November 9th and 10th 1938. It was in reprisal for the death of Ernst von Rath, the Third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris, who was shot on November 7th by Herschell Grynszpan, a Polish Jew. The Night of the Broken Glass caused a great amount of damage to property with thousands of homes and shops being destroyed along with 586 synagogues. Joseph Goebbels said that “the patience of the German people has been exhausted” in an attempt to justify the destruction. However, not everyone was as enthused about the Night of the Broken Glass. Hermann Goering was angered by the widespread destruction of homes and shops. While he fully supported the attack against the Jews of Nazi Germany, he believed that an empty and gutted shop offered little to Germany whereas one that had been cleared of its Jewish owner but was left intact for a German occupier far better served the Reich. Goering was the minister in charge of the economy and saw the two nights of damage to property as a chance lost to the Nazis as no one would want a burnt out shop that offered little to anyone. He had been emphasising to loyal Germans the importance of not wasting anything and here was an example that clearly went against such a philosophy. On November 12th 1938, Goering called a conference to discuss the whole issue. In attendance, amongst others, were Reinhard Heydrich, representing the SS, and Joseph Goebbels. A secretary kept minutes of what was discussed.
Goering complained to Goebbels – who had celebrated what had occurred – that his position as the minister in charge of the economy had been made a lot harder by the destruction caused by Kristallnacht. However, all three men agreed on one thing – it was ultimately the fault of the Jews that the destruction occurred. Goering, according to the minutes, stated that “all measures (should be taken) to eliminate the Jew from the German economy.” Goebbels added that a law needed to be introduced that barred Jews from most beaches, parks, holiday resorts, forests and that there should be clearly marked “For Jews Only” parks and benches. It seems that Heydrich’s role in this meeting was minimal in terms of what he said. However, he was to make one comment, according to the minutes, that was to have a huge impact on the Jews:
“I’d like to make a proposal regarding police measures which are important also because of their psychological effect on public opinion. For example, anyone who is Jewish according to the Nuremburg Laws will have to wear a certain badge.”
On the same day as the meeting, Goering issued three decrees:
1. “All damage to Jewish businesses or dwellings on 8,9 or 10 November 1938 through the indignation of the people over the agitation of the international Jews against national Socialist Germany, must be repaired at once by the Jewish occupant or Jewish businessman. The cost of restoration will be borne by the occupants of the Jewish businesses and dwellings concerned. Insurance claims by Jews of German nationality will be confiscated in favour of the Reich.
2. The hostile attitude of Jewry towards the German people and Reich, which does not even shrink from committing cowardly murder, requires harsh atonement. Therefore I make the following order: the payment of a contribution of 1,000,000,000 Reichmarks to German Reich has been imposed on the Jews of German nationality as a whole.
3. From January 1st, 1939, on, a Jew cannot remain a businessman any longer. If a Jew has been a leading employee in a business enterprise, he will be dismissed after six months notice.”