Candles flickered through the night in synagogues across the nation and white light bathed the Empire State Building to mark the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the "night of shattered glass," when Nazi storm troopers torched temples and terrorized Jews in a haunting prelude to the Holocaust.

"Kristallnacht was the real beginning of the Holocaust," said Ernst Michel, a 65-year-old survivor of five years in Nazi concentration camps who helped organize the nationwide Kristallnacht observances. "It was the night when the German government, aided by local people, launched an attack against the Jews."Jews in every synagogue in the United States lit candles Wednesday that glowed into dawn Thursday to symbolize Jewish survival of the Holocaust, and church congregations in many cities tolled bells at 7 p.m. to mark the onset of Adolf Hitler's 1938 attack.

But in the New York City borough of Staten Island Wednesday, vandals defaced the outside of an ice cream parlor owned by a Jewish man, an act police deemed a crime motivated by bias.

Fifty years ago Wednesday, hundreds of brown-shirted Germans working under official orders stormed through Germany, destroying 200 synagogues and 7,500 Jewish shops and arresting 20,000 Jews. By some estimates as many as 1,000 Jews were murdered in the first official pogrom of the Holocaust.