Remembering the night of broken glass

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Remembering the night of broken glass

On November 9, 1938, Nazis destroyed many synagogues and Jew-owned shops during a pogrom in Germany. Because of all the shattered glass, the night became known as Kristallnacht. In 2020, 82 years after that horrific night, Kristallnacht is remembered all over Europe and even worldwide. In the UK, surviving Jewish witnesses retell what happened.[1] Throughout Germany, memorial wreaths were placed at memorial statues and synagogues. Even though coronavirus prevents people from gathering in large groups, the association of those persecuted by the Nazi regime hopes that people will still use the day of remembrance to stand up against antisemitism.[2] Therefore, people could also join an international online commemoration called ‘Let There Be Light’, hosted by the International March of the Living.[3] Even overseas, in the United States, remembering Kristallnacht was part of the Holocaust Education Week.[4]

The church pleads guilty
In the Netherlands, something remarkable took place. The Protestant Church pleaded guilty for how the church behaved before, during, and after World War II. The church’s behaviour had cleared the path for antisemitism in society by not really resisting against the Nazis.[5] Some from the Dutch Jewish community responded positively to the church’s confession,[6] but according to relatives of resistance fighters, the church made a huge mistake. According to the group, the Protestant Church had no idea how big the resistance truly was during the war.[7] It is also striking that the Protestant Church pleads guilty now, in a year in which the Dutch government also offered its apologies for their actions in World War II.[8] Moreover, the king criticised the actions of his great grandmother, the late queen Wilhelmina, who supposedly never called the Dutch to defend the Jews.[9] [10]

Although the plea of guilt by the Dutch church took 82 years, the German Christian Church had acknowledged the Christian guilt of Kristallnacht in 1988[11]. However, it did take a while until the Evangelical Church said they wanted a remembrance day.[12]

No decrease in antisemitism
Though Kristallnacht and the Holocaust are remembered yearly, antisemitism is still very prevalent.[13] It is not uncommon that memorials are vandalised or gravestones toppled and graveyards desecrated.[14] [15] [16] In 2017 and 2018, people were warned for a possible rise in antisemitism as a response to remembring Kristallnacht.[17] [18] [19] Last year, a star of David and ‘911’ were graffitied on a synagogue in London, which might have been an antisemitic reference to either the terror of 9/11 or Kristallnacht.[20] This is a reminder that even when some try to make amends and even plead guilty, it is clear that antisemitism is still alive today.

Astrid Hamberg

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[1] Kristallnacht anniversary: ‘We were frightened for our lives’

[2] Berlin und Brandenburg erinnern an Opfer der Pogromnacht

[3] Let There Be Light: 2020 Kristallnacht Commemoration

[4] Commemorate Kristallnacht Virtually, as Part of Holocaust Education Week

[5] Protestantste kerk erkent op herdenking Kristallnacht schuld in WO II

[6] Christian Kristallnacht Commemoration in Amsterdam 2020 | Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden

[7] Woede over WOII-schuldbelijdenis PKN: ‘De kerk schoffelt over de graven van verzetsmensen’

[8] Premier Rutte biedt excuses aan voor houding regering ten aanzien van Holocaust

[9] Over het zwijgen van Wilhelmina: wat de koning bedoelde met de uitspraak over zijn overgrootmoeder

[10] Kerken erkennen schuld voor falen voor en tijdens oorlog

[11] German Church Condemns Kristallnacht Silence

[12] Arbeitskreis Kirche und Israel in der Evangelischen Kirche Hessen und Nassau

[13] For more examples of anti-Semitism in the 21st century, see these other articles published by EARS: A pandemic of anti-Semitism and 200 anti-Semitic messages a day

[14] Holocaust Memorial in Boston Is Vandalized for Second Time This Summer (Published 2017)

[15] St. Louis Jewish cemetery rededicated after gravestones toppled by vandals

[16] Jewish community deplores desecration of monuments, cemeteries | News

[17] Germany warns of anti-Semitism on “Kristallnacht”

[18] Kristallnacht anniversary: France warns of steep rise in anti-Semitism

[19] Austrian President Warns Against ‘Scapegoating’ on Kristallnacht Anniversary 

[20] Anti-Semitic graffiti daubed on London shops and cafes