Commemoration of Kristallnacht in Berlin

Deutsche Welle reports on the commemoration in Berlin yesterday of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht [the Night of Broken Glass], when the National Socialists in Germany went on a hate-filled rampage against Jewish establishments. Hundreds of Synagogues were burned, over 1,000 Jews were killed, and 30,000 were hauled off to Concentration Camps.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it “an event that humiliated Jews in an unbelievable way” at a time when “a real low point in German history had been reached”

On Nov. 13, 1938, the Atlanta Constitution wrote,

“Nazi Germany today practically wiped out Jewish business, barred the nation’s 500,000 Jews from public entertainments and fined them $400,000,000 for the slaying of a German diplomat by a young Polish-German Jew in Paris. In addition, the government required that Jews whose 1,000 Berlin shops were wrecked or looted Thursday in mass demonstrations must pay for the damage themselves. Insurance claims by Jews for demolition of their properties must be paid to the state.”

Very different lessons have been drawn from what happened. For those who believe in universal human values, Kristallnacht stands as a warning against ever allowing any society to single out a particular ethnic, religious, or other group for special, punitive treatment. Jews by this time had already been stripped of their German citizenship, becoming stateless, and it was their statelessness that allowed them to be treated in this way, and set the stage for the genocide against them. Humanists argue that the lesson is that no group of people must be allowed to be without the rights of citizenship, since it is the foundation of all other modern rights, of the right to have rights. Kristallnacht is a dire warning against anti-Semitism, but it is more, a call to arms against all forms of concerted bigotry and ethnic hatred, all forms of hierarchy and social inequality based on ascribed identity. As tough as it is to be a modern multi-cultural society, it is that kind of society and its values that are the best bulwark against narrow, virulent nationalism.

9 Responses

  1. This is an important part of history that is ignored, especially in today’s climate where minorities are still attacked today, in places like Russia and Burma. Heck, even after the Fort Hood shooting, there was a pundit on Fox News who called for a backlash against all American Muslims that evoked memories of Kristallnacht.

  2. Compare the parallels between Kristallnacht and Operation Galilee in 1982:

    Both involved the shooting of a diplomat as a pretext – in 1982 it was the attack on Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to London.

    Both involved pretextual reprisal attacks on stateless persons who had nothing to do with the actual incident – in 1982 it was the Abu Nidal organization who shot Argov (and were planning the P.L.O. representative to Britain as the next target) and P.L.O-occupied areas of Lebanon were targeted in retaliation.

    Both resulted in wanton expropriation and destruction directed an ethnic group – in September of 1982 over 1,000 Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila were massacred with the complicity of Lebanese Christian militiamen.

    • Oh please. For once, leave your politics in the bottom drawer and observe the solemnity of the moment, as per Juan’s post.

    • The attempt to draw a parallel between Kristallnacht and the 1982 attack on Sabra and Shatila is so overstretched as to be ludicrous on the face of it.

  3. It’s a sad thing that the annual commemoration of Krystallnacht means that there can be no celebration of taking down the Berlin Wall, which led to German re-unitication – because it happened to occur on the same day.

    I would personally hope that, in future, the Berlin Wall’s destruction would replace the endless dwelling on the Shoah, and accompanying justification for Israeli’s actions against Palestinians. But we keep picking at the old scab, without even a pretense of wanting the wound to heal.

  4. teachers and parents should be aware of the excellent program “Facing History and Ourselves” which provides material and training on teaching the Holocaust — I have used it repeatedly, and my students, parents, and administrators have praised it highly (the Holocaust is the central focus of a broader call for tolerance that includes other cases as well)

    see link to facinghistory.org

  5. Kristallnacht is a dire warning against nationalism. The nation state system is about how many ways to exclude people, humiliating them as the justification to excluding them.

  6. There is not much interest in this subject it seems.

    Thanks, This is a fine remembrance.

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