Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembering Kristallnacht

It was 70 years ago today.

YNet News reported today on a call for a night-long vigil.

Jews across the world will be lighting up the night this Sunday, as a vigil for victims of Kristallnacht, the Nazis' widespread anti-Jewish pogrom 70 years ago in which over a thousand synagogues were destroyed and hundreds of Jews were killed or arrested.

Israeli officials are encouraging synagogues and midrashot (centers for Jewish learning) across the world to remain illuminated overnight, on the night between November 9 and November 10, in memory of the fallen.

"The Nazis' objective was to darken Israel's eyes and turn off 'the light of the world', the light of the Torah and prayer that shone out of synagogues and midrashot," read a joint message published by Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog and chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar.

"As such we call on all of the people of Israel, in the State of Israel and in the Diaspora, to light candles and leave lights on in synagogues and midrashot on the 12th night of (the Jewish month of) Marheshvan, in order to remember and to remind future generations never to forget the cruelty and evil actions that befell us," the statement continued.

In a related story, YNet News reported October 22, 2008, that artifacts from Kristallnacht had been found in a Brandenburg waste dump.

The items have recently been unearthed by [Israeli investigative reporter] Yaron Svoray at a waste site the size of four soccer fields in Brandenburg, located north of Berlin.

The waste site is located in close proximity to the former home of Hermann Goering, who commanded the German air force (Luftwaffe) during World War II.

Kristallnacht, also known as the "Night of Broken Glass" or the "Crystal Night pogroms," saw the destruction of more than 200 synagogues and the ransacking of tens of thousands of Jewish businesses and homes. During the Nazi pogrom 92 Jews were murdered and 25,000–30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps.

According to Svoray, the son of the waste site's watchman had told him that remnants from Kristallnacht were dumped there, and after learning of the possible importance of the artifacts from the director of the Kibbutz Lochmei Ha’ Getaot Museum, Simcha Stein, he returned to Germany with a group of volunteers.

"Within an hour of digging with our bare hands we found a bottle embossed with a Star of David," Svoray told Ynet. "We were very excited, because the chances of a bottle surviving a war are so slim.

"Forty meters (approx. 130 feet) from where we unearthed the bottle I discovered a huge metallic swastika. That's when I knew we had a major story on our hands," the journalist said.

Additional artifacts found by Svoray's crew included mezuzahs and chiseled windowsills and armrests from destroyed synagogues. A swastika-shaped ornament was also discovered.

The search for additional artifacts at the site is ongoing under the constant watch of bodyguards, this after Svoray complained of threats made on his life.

Pope Benedict XVI commemorated the anniversary as well.

"Still today I feel pain over what happened in those tragic events, whose memory must serve to ensure such horrors are never repeated and that we strive, on every level, against all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination ...," said the pope.

"I invite people to pray for the victims of that night and to join me in expressing profound solidarity with the Jewish world," the pontiff told crowds at the Vatican after his regular Sunday Angelus address.

Pope Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria in 1927, was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teenager, though both his parents opposed the Nazis.

Earlier this year the pontiff spoke in New York about his teenage years being "marred by a sinister regime".

Let us never forget--and never repeat. I, for one, will be leaving my porch light on all night.

Photo credit (all photos): United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Malott said...

Nice post.

I remember the scene in "Cabaret" when Joel Gray dances with the gorilla and sings, "If you could see her through my eyes, she wouldn't look Jewish at all."

I wonder if that's how it started... Like anti-religious humor from Bill Maher or an anti-Christian skit on Saturday Night Live, reflecting anti-Church sentiments among a growing number of Americans... Or maybe like gays attacking a Catholic Church flinging condoms at the worshipers.

Kristallnacht isn't so hard to understand.

SkyePuppy said...


I wonder if that's how it started...

I'm sure it is. Make an Us v. Them situation and go from there.

The seeds have been planted here, as you suggest. We need to resist it when it's directed our way. But we also need to resist our own temptation to do the same to other groups.

Tsofah said...

Thanks, Skye, for posting this. It's amazing what humanity has done against other humans - especially against the Jews.

They've never done anything against anyone unless it was in defending their lives - as in the pre-emptive strikes against the armies and tanks sitting on their borders ready to attack.

They've never blown up cruise ships or thrown people in wheelchairs overboard. They've never highjacked a jet and thrown the body of a murdered man on the tarmack. They've never flown jets into tall buildings.

Yet, they are blamed for everything bad that happens to anyone, it seems. I am blessed to know and be friends with several who are of the Jewish faith. May more people be likewise.