It is the anniversary of “Kristallnacht.”
On the night of November 9, 1938, violent anti-Jewish demonstrations broke out across Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Nazi officials depicted the riots as justified reactions to the assassination of German foreign official Ernst vom Rath, who had been shot two days earlier by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year old Polish Jew distraught over the forced deportation of his family from Germany and the antisemitic attacks that were rampant and sanctioned by the Nazis and their supporters.
Sparked by anti-Semitic sermons and doctrines from Nazi officials, for the next two days, violent mobs destroyed hundreds of synagogues, burning and desecrating Jewish religious artifacts, heirlooms and belongings of Jews, and Jewish buildings and businesses. On orders from Gestapo headquarters, the police and firefighters did nothing to prevent the carnage and destruction.
Almost 8,000 Jewish-owned businesses, homes, and schools were plundered. Over 100 Jews were murdered. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Nazi officials immediately claimed that the Jews themselves were to blame for the riots, and a fine of One Billion Reichsmarks (about $400 Million at 1938 rates) was imposed on the German Jewish community.
The Nazis prized the night and called the brutal riots Kristallnacht (meaning “crystal night” or “the night of broken glass”), referring to the thousands of shattered windows that littered the streets afterwards. This name does not convey the horrific brutality of the situation. Kristallnacht proved to the Third Reich that they were victorious, empowered by massive support of the mobs and other citizens. They took the anti-Semitic rhetoric and legislation and turned it into violent actions, and the aggressive anti-Jewish process that lead to the Holocaust.
Hatred and malice of the Nazis and their anti-Semitic supporters shifted world history. Acts of violence against Jews continued to be justified by the othering, victimization, and marginalization of the Jewish people. From 1938-1945, the Nazis and their collaborators killed 2 out of every 3 Jews.
What are you doing to remember Jewish people who were bullied, tortured, and killed? What are you doing to protect Jews today? What are you doing to stop antisemitism and prevent its accelerated rise today?
Our Jewish people have seen what happens when others remain silent while we are attacked. So, will you be a bystander or an upstander? Will you fuel the hate or extinguish the hate?
Learn the lessons from the past. Stop the mob, do not join the mob. Fight for life not for death.
As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and survivors of anti-Jewish attacks, I stand tall, raise my voice, and take action.
Am Israel Chai.