An Open Letter to Christiane Amanpour

Dear Christiane Amanpour,

You are a well-known journalist with a global audience both on CNN and social media. What you say matters to many.

That’s why your commentary on November 12 likening Kristallnacht to the Trump era was so troubling. Because it comes from you. Because it carries with it an aura of authority and credibility. Because you haven’t backed away from it.

Since we all carry our own “baggage,” let me put mine on the table up front.

I am the first person in my extended family born in the United States. Every relative older than me was touched by the Second World War and Holocaust. That includes my father, who was a target of Kristallnacht in Austria.

Moreover, I represent a strictly nonpartisan organization, American Jewish Committee, so I have absolutely no political axe to grind in writing to you.

What was wrong with your commentary? Two main things.

First, in setting the stage for your attack on the Trump administration, you purported to describe the events of November 9-10, 1938, which came to be known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass.

You said it was an assault on “fact, knowledge, history, and truth.”

But something striking was missing from your description. Not a single word about the actual targets of the Nazi assault in Germany and Austria. Those targets were Jews, synagogues, and Jewish-owned businesses.

The damage was incredibly widespread. Scores killed. 30,000 Jewish men arrested and imprisoned in Buchenwald, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and other infamous concentration camps. 1000+ houses of worship burned to the ground. Thousands of shops destroyed.

In so many ways, Kristallnacht signaled the start of the implementation of the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people.

A stand-alone commentary about this anniversary could have done so much to combat surging antisemitism in the world today, not to mention shocking ignorance, as polls show, about the Holocaust in Europe and the U.S.

Indeed, you could have drawn inspiration from the remarks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said earlier this month: “We remember the disgrace of November 9, 1938, the pogroms against Jewish fellow citizens throughout the country, the people driven to their deaths, the burning synagogues, the destroyed stores. We commemorate the victims of the crime committed by Germany against humanity, the Shoah, in shame.”

Yet, alas, that did not appear to be your goal, which is my second concern. Rather, it was to set the stage for your central message — suggesting that Kristallnacht was an appropriate historical reference to what has been unfolding in the U.S. under President Trump.

In other words, you were weaponizing Kristallnacht, instrumentalizing the Holocaust to make your point. It’s hard to reach any other conclusion.

You despise President Trump? You fear an uncertain transfer of power? You worry about his trampling on truth and facts? Obviously, if those are your beliefs, it’s your right, indeed your obligation, to speak out.

But, please leave Kristallnacht and the Holocaust out of it. A misuse of history. An offense to the memory of the Nazi era and the systematic annihilation of six million Jewish women, men, and children, including my family members. And, I would add, an overwrought reading of the situation today for anyone with an understanding of the Nazi era.

Ms. Amanpour, time is fleeting, but better late than never. Please do the right thing, apologize for your commentary, and issue a clarification.

About the Author
David Harris is the CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
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