Kristallnacht Remains Relevant 82 Years Later
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jewish Press, Nov. 10, 2020This week Germany marks the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.” The nationwide Nazi pogrom against that country’s Jewish community took place on Nov. 9-10, 1938, and is chiefly remembered for the destruction of so many Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues—debris filling the streets with shards of glass from shattered windows and doors.Kristallnacht is often described as the harbinger of the Holocaust that would soon consume the lives of 6 million Jewish men, women and children during the following years at the hands of Germans and their collaborators. But it might more accurately be referred to as the culmination of a process of demonization and marginalization by the Nazi regime that led to a national demonstration of intolerance and violence. Within a few years, the horror of the blood shed by the murderers would eclipse the shock of the Kristallnacht pogrom. But what must be understood about the events of November 1938 is that prior to that event, it was still possible to pretend that Germany was a civilized nation, even if Adolf Hitler and his followers, who took power in January 1933, spoke and acted like barbarians.In 2019, the significance of this date is not in doubt. What is in question is whether it should serve as a measuring stick for us to evaluate today’s crisis of anti-Semitism. After shootings in synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., and the brazen attack last month on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, as well as a host of other incidents throughout Europe, it’s clear that the rising tide of anti-Semitism that has swept over the globe in recent years is not abating. Violence from the far right aimed at Jews has become a fact of life that shouldn’t be ignored.
Meanwhile, the demonization of Jews and Israel from the left has also become a part of mainstream discourse in Europe. It is also finding a foothold in the United States as BDS advocates have become louder and shockingly prominent in the form of two members of Congress: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who are lionized by the press as victims of Islamophobia rather than hatemongers.
These developments have provoked fears that the cycle of violence and delegitimization that led to Kristallnacht is being repeated. But while there is an obvious need for a sense of alarm about the uptick in anti-Semitism, the fact that nothing that is happening today is analogous to what was going on in 1938 cannot be emphasized enough.
To state that doesn’t gainsay the fact that Jewish life is under siege in Europe, as even well-meaning government officials have gone so far as to tell German and French Jews not to wear identifying clothing, like kipahs, or jewelry, like Star of David necklaces, on the streets so as not to make themselves targets. Nor does it minimize the threat from terrorist groups or anti-Semitic regimes like that of Iran, which still hopes to acquire nuclear weapons and therefore place the one Jewish state on the planet in peril of being annihilated. Fears about Britain being ruled by an anti-Semite like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are similarly justified. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
‘Nights of Broken Glass’ from 1938 to 2020
Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper
The Hill, Nov. 9, 2020
While it flies in the face of the orthodoxies of a “woke” culture, Judaism insists that memory is a core value for anyone or any society seeking to build a better future.
To be clear, it’s never been about memorizing history dates — whether 1619 or 1776 — but instead is about what takeaways we should keep from specific moments in history. And while we all love holidays and celebrations, key lessons learned or unlearned are often echoes from our ancestors’ suffering and failures.
Most famously, the Bible’s Five Books of Moses insist 36 times that we must show compassion for all strangers because the Jewish people once were strangers in the land of Egypt thousands of years ago.
For Jews, memory is not a luxury but a key part of our DNA. We are taught that the actions of our forefathers and mothers are signs and guideposts that presage our own paths and our people’s fate; a pattern of sin and repair, of failure and success, of exile and return. For generations we have been taught that we shun memory at our peril.
This brings us to the Nazi Holocaust, an unspeakable tragedy of such scope that a new lexicon had to be created to describe the systematic murder of 6 million Jews, among them some 1.5 million children.
Yom Hashoah and International Holocaust Remembrance Day were established to try to wrap our minds around the unfathomable dimensions of human suffering unleashed in that genocide.
But another event — Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” — on Nov. 9-10, 1938, which preceded the ghettos, deportations and gas chambers, is still seared into the collective Jewish psyche.
On those nights, Hitler unleashed a pogrom, in full view of the world, that began the process of erasing Jews and Judaism from Germany. The Nazis studied the Jews carefully and understood that to marginalize and ultimately eliminate German Jewry they had to target the symbol of the Jewish collective and community: the synagogue.
The horrors of that night failed to move the hearts and minds of Western leaders. Hitler took note of the apathy and absence of action and empathy for the Jews. The unmistakable, if unspoken, message to Hitler was: We’re not to act; we don’t want the Jews, you deal with them. And so, he did.
World War II soon was unleashed upon the world. Poland and Eastern European German troops and the SS would be burning down synagogues with trapped Jews inside, transforming the space where the cycle of life had been celebrated into infernos where holy Torahs and holy Jews went up in flames. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Some Holocaust Survivors, Even Liberation was Dehumanizing
The New York Times Magazine, Apr. 28, 2020
On April 10, 1945, the 84th Infantry Division liberated Hannover-Ahlem concentration camp. Confronted with walking skeletons and cadavers piled in bins, many service members cried and vomited. After inspecting the squalid camp hospital filled with men he described as “catatonics,” Capt. William J. Hagood Jr., a doctor in the 335th Infantry Regiment of the 84th Division, wrote in a letter to his wife, “You have to see it — and you are so stunned, you only say it was horrible. You can’t think of adjectives. We weren’t in the place two minutes before our eyes filled with tears.”
The liberation of the camps involved more than 30 American military units, such as the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions at Dachau, the Fourth and Sixth Armored at Buchenwald and its subcamps, and the 82nd Airborne at Landsberg. These soldiers were responsible for organizing medical care, supplying food and eventually repatriating the freed prisoners, and so served as primordial architects of the survivors’ journeys from camp degradation to the postwar search for their lost humanity. According to accounts, not all soldiers acted equally when confronted with that responsibility, and some further mistreated them, extending the trauma they had endured while imprisoned. It’s hard to imagine that survivors could have suffered further humiliation on their passage to freedom. But the portrayal of liberation in some of their memoirs reveals that the end of the Holocaust opened new wounds. It also offered unexpected opportunities for healing.
As the first presence from the outside world, the Allied liberators presented a dual reality for detainees in concentration camps. Jorges Semprún, a Spanish communist and political activist interned in Buchenwald, wrote in his memoir “Writing or Life” that prisoners attained long-awaited freedom, but the way some liberators treated them reinforced the idea that they had become less than human. “It’s the horror in my eyes that’s revealing the horror in theirs,” he wrote of his first encounter with British soldiers. “If their eyes were mirrors, it seems I’m not far from dead.” At the beginning of their internment, prisoners who weren’t selected for the gas chamber learned quickly from Nazi guards that they weren’t viewed as humans but as animals. Orders were barked, compassion was nonexistent. Semprún hadn’t expected that his liberators would view him in the same way.
Semprún’s brush with his liberators echoed Primo Levi’s description of his interactions with the Soviets at Auschwitz in January 1945. “They did not greet us nor did they smile,” Levi wrote in “The Reawakening.” “They seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by a confused restraint, which sealed their lips and bound their eyes to the funereal scene.” Like Semprún, Levi compared this experience to the sense of shame felt in front of German captors: “It was that shame we knew so well … every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame that the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at another man’s crime.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
A Dutch Family Hid Me from the Nazis: I Owe Them My Life
Globe and Mail, Nov. 10, 2020
I can never pass Remembrance Day without reflection. This year we marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of The Netherlands. It meant freedom for Dutch men, women and children after a brutal five-year occupation by German military forces. More than 5,000 Canadian soldiers rest in Dutch soil and are mourned and remembered there annually. They were our liberators and will never be forgotten, for Canadians and Canada are seared into the collective memory of the population. I myself saw Canadian tanks chasing German half tracks down the streets of The Hague. On May 4, 1945, I was looking out the window of my mother’s small apartment where she had been hiding. A man across the street opened his door one day too early. He was shot by a retreating German soldier. I was dragged away from the window. I was not yet five years old.
Unlike most Dutch children who began their lives anew after the war, I was a Jewish child hidden with Albert and Violette Munnik and their daughter, Nora, from November, 1942, to May, 1945. I became Robbie Munnik and was returned to my parents who had miraculously survived, the only survivors of their families of origin. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins had all been murdered. For Jews, the postwar world offered precious little solace or hope: it was a world of death and of mourning. Liberation did not feel particularly liberating. Within that depressing atmosphere I made the transition from Robbie Munnik back to Robbie Krell.
For this Remembrance Day 2020, I want to honour the memory of my Christian Vader, my second father.
When my mother passed me on to Moeder (mother), who agreed to take me for a few weeks while she secured a hiding place, Vader accepted me without hesitation. Did he know of the risk to his family, hiding a Jewish child? If not in 1942, certainly he did by 1943. But unlike many in this situation, he did not dwell on possible consequences. He simply set about loving me.
Early in my hiding, they allowed Nora to take me out, but that was a mistake. A woman recognized me. She happened to know my mother and asked Nora why she was looking after me. Vader contacted her immediately to ensure she remained silent. From then on, I was housebound. He read to me and made toys for me. His brothers and a sister all kept the secret of my presence. One slip could lead to betrayal. I was beyond lucky. Vader worked hard, loved deeply and enjoyed his hobbies, which included playing the piano by ear and carving wood and shaping metal. He was talented.
The danger increased. Only after the war would we learn that more than 80 per cent of Dutch Jews were deported and murdered, primarily in Auschwitz and Sobibor. Of 108,000 souls sent to the death camps, only about 5,000 returned. And of about 14,000 children in hiding, more than half were betrayed, as was Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
On Kristallnacht Anniversary, Presidents Of Israel, Austria, Germany Call For Stand Against Hatred: Matzav, Nov. 9, 2020 — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday issued a joint call to fight all forms of hatred.
Bahrain Synagogue Joins Global Initiative to Commemorate ‘Kristallnacht’ Anniversary: Shiryn Ghermezian, Algemeiner, Nov. 10, 2020 — The synagogue in the Bahraini capital of Manama kept its lights on Monday night, as part of an international campaign to commemorate the 82th anniversary of the “Kristallnacht” pogrom, for the first time since the Gulf Arab nation normalized ties with Israel.
WATCH: The Echoes of Kristallnacht: The Atlantic, Oct. 30, 2018 — Just before midnight on November 9, 1938, the Gestapo chief, Heinrich Müller, sent a telegram to every police unit in Nazi Germany.
Holocaust Survivors In Northeast Ohio Reflect On Concerning New Study: Jessica Miller, Russ Mitchell, WKYC Studios, Nov. 11, 2020 — Erika Gold was just 11 years old when she came face-to-face with the devastating reality of anti-Semitism.
Mario Silva: Persistence of Anti-Semitism Shows World Has Yet To Learn Lessons Of The Holocaust: Mario Silva, National Post, Jan. 26, 2017 — This year marks the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Sadly, the liberation of the camp on Jan. 27, 1945 did not put a stop to the mass killing of innocent Jewish men, women and children.