BERLIN — In one picture, a uniformed Nazi is seen destroying a display window while a crowd looks on, seemingly in approval. In another, uniformed Nazis pour gas on a rug in a synagogue. In a third, a terrorized woman in a housecoat is seen on a bed.
The chilling photos of the 1938 Nazi pogrom were released on Wednesday, the 84th anniversary of what is known as the night of broken glass, or Kristallnacht, the organized and widespread attacks on Jews that are widely commemorated as the start of the Holocaust.
The pictures, taken in the Bavarian cities of Fürth and Nuremberg, were in an album that had been secreted away by a former American soldier and then donated to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel, after his death.
On Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi thugs, often accompanied by cheering civilians, attacked Jewish people and their homes, businesses and synagogues, in a coordinated assault that the Nazi leadership wanted to appear spontaneous.
When the pogrom was over, 92 people had been killed, 30,000 had been sent to concentration camps, and 1,400 synagogues were destroyed, according to Yad Vashem.
The newly released photos amount to “further proof that this was dictated from above and was not a spontaneous event of an enraged public, as they tried to make these pogroms appear,” Jonathan Matthews, the head of the photography section of the Yad Vashem Archives in Israel, said in a statement.
The photos were discovered by the family of an American man who served in the U.S. Army counterintelligence department during the war. The family does not know how the soldier, who was Jewish, came into possession of the photos, but his daughter and granddaughters decided to donate the album to Yad Vashem upon finding them after he passed away.
The opening pages of the donated album show what appear to be Jewish victims of the pogrom. Hastily dressed in overcoats and housecoats, a group of older people look at the photographer, and at least one man has lacerations on his face.
“We can see from the extreme close-up nature of these photos that the photographers were an integral part of the event depicted,” said Mr. Matthews. “The angles and proximity to the perpetrators seem to indicate a clear goal, to document the events that took place.”
The new photos came to light as politicians in Berlin commemorated the anniversary in the shadow of an increase in antisemitic crimes.
“The night of Nov. 9, 1938, will forever remain a night of shame for our country,” Nancy Faeser, Germany’s interior minister, said in Parliament on Wednesday
Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Nov. 9, which is also the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, would forever be associated with the “break in civilization of the Holocaust.”
“Nov. 9 will always call us to fight against antisemitism,” he said in a speech on Wednesday.