This took place during the night 9-10 November 1938. In the Hani strand of the novel, Hani remembers seeing the aftermath of it during the morning of 10 November. She recalls this when her BDM leader is talking about the enemies of the state – the Jews.
Käthe and Hans Elders’ divorce papers indicate that Käthe left the family home of 15 November 1938. We know that this was not true. Yet it seems a reasonable date to use as this would have been a few days after the Kristallnacht. The fictional Kellermann cake shop is destroyed in our story but reopens after the war.
Kristallnacht is sometimes translated into English as “The Night of the Broken Glass”. Shops and businesses belonging to Jews were ransacked by SA and SS personal and civilians. The Police condoned it. Synagogues were set on fire and whilst fire crews prevented the fires from spreading to neighbouring buildings- so long as they belonged to Aryan Germans – little was done to put these fires out. The fire crew that attends Haus Lehrs in our story show a similar attitude.
The trigger of the attacks was the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Polish Jew in Paris. Ernst vom Rath was considered to be quite a mild Nazi who had in fact resisted anti-Semitism. This seemed to add insult to injury in the Nazi’s eyes. The Jews were already having quite a hard time under Nazi rule: the 1935 Nuremberg Laws had already taken many of their rights away.
The event on 9 November 1938 is well named. It was a night of broken glass – Kristall – but it also crystallised the Nazi attitude. It is often named as the beginning of the Holocaust. One international reaction to the Kristallnacht was the setting up of the Kindertransport. Obviously Hans and Käthe
Edler had given this some thought. Six weeks later they at last told Renate that she was Jewish. Six weeks after that she was on her way to England.
A lot of the shops could be looted. Who would do that?
Why do you think the Germans felt so angry about the Jews?
Was Ernst von Rath's assassination a justification or an excuse?
Sometimes we are surprised that certain people, ourselves included, actually join in looting parties. Why do people who normally keep to the laws suddenly start doing something so peculiar?