Ode to Kristallnacht

Written and submitted by Dr. Bill Anderson. His outstanding career has included lecturing on the Holocaust at Deakin University for over 20 years  and is currently Historical Consultant and Educator at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne and has led ‘Australian Adult March of the Living’ trips to Poland and Israel.



Night of broken glass

the harvest of hate

like seeds broadcast

lies germinating

on the pavements,

crunching underfoot

as wide-eyed sightseers

see the sights,

the fruits of the crystal night.


Night of broken glass,

glass shattered by the ton

lives smashed by the weight of

ancient and modern hatreds,

the panes of glass

broken and scattered

on the pavement

reflect life and death

a mirror into the future.


Night of broken glass

and shattered lives.

The sharp edges of racism

lie naked and shining bright.

All can see the cuts,

the deep and ragged scars,

no one with eyes to see

needs a crystal ball

to see through this glass darkly.


Kristallnacht  also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom (a series of coordinated attacks) against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues had their windows smashed.

At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and 30,000 were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone) and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.

Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world.

The Times wrote at the time:

 “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”

The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew resident in Paris. Kristallnacht was followed by additional economic and political persecution of Jews, and is viewed by historians as part of Nazi Germany’s broader racial policy, and the beginning of the Final Solution and The Holocaust.


Check Also

Whenever I feel afraid – Rosh HaShanah

Julie Andrews made it into a famous song – the notion that whenever I feel …


  1. Thank you for this Bill.

    Very moving and very emotional. It has sent shivers through my body.

  2. Bill, a moving and timely poem, reminding us that commemorating Kristallnacht is not just for the sake of remembrance of the historical persectuion of innocents.

    It should serve as a warning that what we thought was a memory of racism is rearing its ugly head throughout Europe. We ignore the signs at our peril.

  3. This is a magnficent artistic and truthful expose. Such an important reminder. Well done Bill.

  4. I wish we had Jewish academics like BIll Anderson , constantly writing into the main stream media waving the flag for Jews and israel.. Unfortunately most of our Jewish academics are too busy fighting for the rights of Palestinians and Middle East asylum seekers..
    Thank you Bill you are a Gem!

  5. That was indeed a terrible time, and I hope we never see its like again.