Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Kristallnacht Anniversary, Critical Lessons Remain Unheeded

by Brian Levin

Huffington Post
November 10, 2010

NAZIS SMASH, LOOT AND BURN JEWISH SHOPS AND TEMPLES UNTIL GOEBELLS CALLS HALT, The New York Times announced on its front page of November 11, 1938. From Austria, the newspaper reported "All Vienna's Synagogues Attacked" and "Many of those arrested were sent to prisons or concentration camps in busses." From Berlin correspondent Otto Tolischus wrote of concentration camps and the errie noise of the "shattering of shop windows falling to the ground." Tolishus described:

A wave of destruction, looting and incendiarism unparalleled in Germany since the Thirty Years War and in Europe generally since the Bolshevist Revolution, swept over Great Germany today as National Socialist cohorts took vengeance on Jewish shops offices and synagogues....In extent, intensity and total damage, the day's outbreak exceeded even those of the 1918 revolution and by nightfall there was scarcely a Jewish shop, café, office or synagogue in the country that was not either wrecked, burned or severely damaged.

Dramatic historical events are often made singularly important and there are frequent efforts to derive lessons from them. Such is the case as the world marks the seventy-second anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom against German, Austrian and Czech Jews, which occurred on November 9-10, 1938. Kristallnacht's importance lay not only in the violence that occurred those evenings, but in the incremental measures that preceded it and the unspeakable evil that it would presage in the years to come. The name Kristallnacht, strictly translated from the German "crystal night" refers to actually two evenings of shattered glass across the region. Historian Dr. Michael Berenbaum in The World Must Know notes that the broken glass losses alone were five million marks or over two million dollars. Of course broken glass was the least of what was destroyed. While Kristallnacht marks a critical point on Germany's directed march toward genocide, it was far from the first of many more graduated steps that started with estrangement and degradation and culminated in the Holocaust.