Teaching Students Facts About Kristallnacht

Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, was a violent pogrom that took place in Germany and Austria on November 9-10, 1938. This tragic event marks a significant turning point in the systematic persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime. As educators, it is crucial to teach students about this dark chapter in history to raise awareness about prejudice and cultivate a sense of empathy and understanding toward different ethnicities and religions.


Kristallnacht got its name from the vast amount of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned businesses, homes, and synagogues were destroyed during the attacks. The violence was orchestrated by Nazi officials but carried out primarily by ordinary German and Austrian citizens. It is estimated that around 100 Jews were killed during the two-day period, and approximately 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Teaching Methods:

1. Start with a historical context:

Help your students understand the broader context of Kristallnacht by discussing the rise of Adolf Hitler and his influence on society’s attitudes toward Jews. Discussing Germany’s economic challenges at the time can provide essential background information that paints an accurate picture of societal conditions.

2. Use primary sources:

Share accounts of survivors or eyewitnesses to teach students about personal experiences during Kristallnacht. Multimedia resources like documentaries or video interviews can effectively engage students while providing a vivid window into history.

3. Incorporate creative projects:

Have your students read novels or plays centered around Kristallnacht, such as “The Night Trilogy” by Elie Wiesel or “Broken Glass” by Arthur Miller. Students can also create paintings or sculptures inspired by survivors’ stories as a means for personal reflection.

4. Encourage critical thinking and discussion:

Engage students in group discussions addressing essential questions like the root causes of anti-Semitism, the role of ordinary citizens during Kristallnacht, and the implications this event had on the Holocaust.

5. Connect to present-day issues:

Draw parallels between Kristallnacht and more recent instances of racial or religious violence to impart the gravity of societal prejudice and hatred. Encourage students to reflect on their previous knowledge and challenge their beliefs on discrimination.


Teaching students about Kristallnacht from a historical perspective allows for a comprehensive understanding of the atrocities experienced during that tragic event. Developing empathy, awareness, and critical thinking are vital in preventing history from repeating itself, as future generations should actively strive for a world devoid of discrimination and prejudice.

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