Kristallnacht:The Glass is Still Breaking

Tags: Holocaust, History, Activism, Jewish Identity, Leadership, Israel Engagement, Elana Heideman, Antisemitism

By Dr. Elana Yael Heideman

Sunday, November 9th, 1938. In one night of terror, 7000 Jewish businesses and countless homes were attacked and destroyed, 1350 Synagogues burned to the ground throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. 30,000 Jewish men sent to concentration camps. Women and girls were beaten and raped. 91 Jews were killed - the first acts of open murder of Jews.

This all occurred within 24 hours: the Night of the Broken Glass. Why? Hatred of Jews. Why else?

As early as 1936, anti-Jewish signage and limitations on freedom became commonplace. "Parks Not For Jews." "Jews Not Wanted." "The Road to Palestine does not go through here. Jews Forbidden." The Nuremberg Laws were already in effect, and Jewish life was increasingly inhibited, yet the Jews of Germany could not foresee the dangers ahead.

Historically inclined to minimize the growing dangers, and persuaded by the very human belief that "it will never get worse than this," or the collective "we Jews have been through worse," they bemoaned the circumstances, the lies, the growing animosity of their neighbors but no collective action was taken for the defense of Jewish life that they now realized was indeed in grave danger.

By the time "Jude" was painted across windows, cemeteries desecrated, and the vengeance became physically violent, little could be done to quell the flames of hatred.

As Abe Foxman has said, "The differences with Kristallnacht are stark and significant, but the similarities cannot be ignored. It is rightly said that the Holocaust began not with gas chambers but with words. The significance of Kristallnacht in the history of the Holocaust is the passage from anti-Jewish legislation and anti-Semitic rhetoric to violence against Jews. And therein lies the lesson for today." READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

At that time, there was no precedent for this degree of legalized hatred and persecution of the Jews. But the incitement that brought about by Kristallnacht is echoed in the propaganda, distortions, and demonization of the modern day.

Then, as now, Germany accused the Jews of being the perpetrators - using contrived accusations and libelous propaganda to convince the masses that the elimination of the Jew was key to their own survival.

Even when national leaders gathered together for the Evian Conference in July 1938 initiated by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the consensus of all 32 nations was that the Jewish problem was not their to fight. And while some brave politicians, actors, artists, and community leaders are standing up in support of Israel, many more are joining the ranks of those who, once again, seek the destruction of Jewish life.

With molotov cocktails being thrown at Jewish homes, businesses, cars and buses throughout Jerusalem; stabbings and car rammings; Jewish cemeteries desecrated all over the world we can feel the glass shattering all around us. Whether in Israel or abroad, there is no denying that the world has once again begun to believe the lies against the Jews as the hate spreads like wildfire.

As a Holocaust educator for over 20 years, I have heard time and again the same question, "Why did the Jews not see the writing on the wall? Why didn't they band together and DO something?"

While Holocaust education continues, it is now considered to increase resentment of Jews and hatred of Israel. And the prevalent minimizing of the extreme Holocaust reality allows for the distortions of truth and outright lies that result in Israel and Israeli soldiers being considered the Nazis of today.

If we do not work together towards a common goal, can we expect that the hatred of Jews or Israel might ever come to an end? We finally have a state of our own where we CAN stand up and take action, defending Jewish life near and far, and protecting our property, our dignity, and our human rights. We have the most moral army in the world, and we make every effort to continue building the "national project" that is our Jewish State. But our differences and indifference continue to hinder our ability to respond as one as we continue to say NEVER AGAIN.

With this as the surrounding reality, it is no wonder that most Jews will shy away, find the more politically-correct alternative, or keep their feelings about it all as quiet as possible.

We here at Israel Forever strive every day to bring PRIDE to the forefront of Jewish life and identity. We believe that pride in Israel and Jewish pride can and should go hand in hand. We understand that not everyone will be a public advocate, or shout out loud that they hold Israel close to their hearts. And we do all that we can to make it possible that, even in silence, one can feel connected and be a part of making a difference.

So as we remember the destruction of the past, we dream of a future of peace, when life in our homeland can proceed without fear of missiles, bomb belts and pending war. We long for an era when the world will understand the unique position in which Israel and Israeli soldiers are placed, rather than jumping to the conclusion that we are innately in the wrong, and when our contributions to humanity will appreciated rather than resented.

As we remember the nightmare that befell our people on Kristallnacht, let us ask ourselves what we can do to stop this wave of reminiscent venom, and unite as one as we declare ISRAEL IS FOREVER.

Those who don't know; please learn. Those who know: please never forget. And may we all ensure that the lessons of the past ensure a strong and hopeful tomorrow.

How will you make a difference?



Learn more about Honoring the Past and Celebrating the Future today!

About the Author

Dr.  Elana Yael Heideman
Dr. Elana Yael Heideman, Executive Director of The Israel Forever Foundation, is a dynamic and passionate educator who works creatively and collaboratively in developing content and programming to deepen and activate the personal connection to Israel for Diaspora Jews. Elana’s extensive experience in public speaking, educational consulting and analytic research and writing has served to advance her vision of Israel-inspired Jewish identity that incorporates the relevance of the Holocaust, Antisemitism and Zionism to contemporary issues faced throughout the Jewish world in a continuous effort to facilitate dialogue and build bridges between the past, present and future.

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Tags: Holocaust, History, Activism, Jewish Identity, Leadership, Israel Engagement, Elana Heideman, Antisemitism