Harrowing, previously unseen images from 1938′s Kristallnacht pogrom against German and Austrian Jews have surfaced in a photograph collection donated to Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial, the organization said Wednesday.
One shows a crowd of smiling, well-dressed middle-aged German men and women standing casually as a Nazi officer smashes a storefront window. In another, brownshirts carry heaps of Jewish books, presumably for burning. Another image shows a Nazi officer splashing gasoline on the pews of a synagogue before it’s set alight.
Yad Vashem — The World Holocaust Remembrance Center released the photographs on the 84th anniversary of the November pogrom also known as Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass.” Mobs of Germans and Austrians attacked, looted and burned Jewish shops and homes, destroyed 1,400 synagogues, killed 92 Jews and sent another 30,000 to concentration camps.
The violence is widely considered a starting point for the Holocaust, in which Nazi Germany murdered 6 million Jews.
Jonathan Matthews, head of Yad Vashem’s photo archive, said the photos dispel a Nazi myth that the attacks were “a spontaneous outburst of violence” rather than a pogrom orchestrated by the state. Firefighters, SS special police officers and members of the general public are all seen in the photos participating in the Kristallnacht. The photographers themselves were an integral part of the events.