Bernhard Rosenberg

Kristallnacht – never forget

If someone murdered a loved one of yours would you benevolently erase the atrocity from your mind? If the murderer still lived, would you seek to convict him or merely discover other avenues of interest to preoccupy your time?

Six million Jews were brutally murdered, yet some wish to conveniently forget. Why live in the past? The dead cannot be revived! Let us speak for the living; let us turn toward other outlets of concern.

The Nazi mentality still exists; we dare not naively believe that anti-Semitism has vanished. Hatred and bigotry is a cancer that eventually returns to haunt its innocent victims. Unless intense treatment and annual diagnostic tests occur, tragedy is inevitable.
Some naively believe that public denunciations and continued documentaries will awaken latent Nazi tendencies. Allow me to suggest the opposite. Those who truly wish to destroy the Jewish nation certainly do not need additional incentives.

Like parasites, they survive at the expense of others. These cannibals of society eagerly await to devour their prey; they feed upon fear and desperately search for defenseless scapegoats. An apathetic approach combined with the fear of retaliation merely furnishes fuel for those seeking scapegoats. Too often we dismiss the obvious in order to achieve peace of mind.

As we travel backward into the time machine of history, this truism becomes evident. The socialist party declared a boycott to begin on April 1, 1933, of all Jewish businesses in Germany. Naively, the following sentiment was expressed in the April 3, 1933, edition of the London Times: “There is no spontaneous hostility to the hard-working small Jewish shopkeeper or trader.” The New York Times reported, “There is an active anti-Semitism in the German masses if they are left alone.”

Eventually the press awakened to the reality of an impending nightmare. In response to Kristallnacht, the New York Times observed: “It is assumed that the Jews, who have now lost most of their possessions and livelihood, will either be thrown into the streets or put into ghettos and concentration camps or impressed into labor brigades and put to work for the Third Reich. As the children of Israel were once before the Pharaohs.” Following the atrocities of Kristallnacht, the London Times exclaimed, “It is not to be believed that the nations cannot find the means of assisting unwarranted citizens to leave Germany and of providing the territory in which those Jews can find a liberated community and recover the right to live and prosper. There is no difficulty which a common will and common action cannot overcome.”

Now we can openly admit, too little too late! Fear and appeasement provided the Nazi party with the subterfuge they eagerly sought. Isolationism blinded the eyes of our so called leadership.

Various pleas remained unheard and unanswered. A cable sent to Breckinridge Long, on March 26, 1943, stated: “Gravest possible news reaching London past week shows massacres now reaching catastrophic climax, particularly Poland, also deportations Bulgarian, Rumanian Jews already begun. European Jewry disappearing while no single organization rescue measure yet takes … extermination reaching peak. Urge allied relief.”

Ironically between 1933 and 1943 there existed more than 400,000 vacant positions in the United States immigration quotas of countries under Nazi domination. Yet, Cordell Hull insisted, “I cannot recommend that we open the question of relaxing  the provision of our immigration laws and run the risk of a prolonged and bitter controversy in congress on the immigration question-considering the generous quantity of refugees we have already received.”

Perhaps if we as a nation would have spoken as one unit, our leaders would have not turned a deaf ear. The Holocaust can happen again. Ruthlessness and hatred still permeate the atmosphere. Awareness and action is our most potent and valued weapon. Silence and inaction is a way of life we dare not accept.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth-El, Edison, New Jersey received his ordination and doctorate of Education from Yeshiva University in New York. He also possesses A.A., B.A., M.A., and M.S. degrees in communication and education. He possesses a Doctor of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. He taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Yeshiva University in New York. His books include: “Theological and Halachic Reflections on the Holocaust,” “Contemplating the Holocaust,” “The Holocaust as Seen Through Film,” and "Echoes of the Holocaust."