Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass
Two Paintings of Kristallnacht
On November 9th, 1938, in an event that would foreshadow the Holocaust, German Nazis launch a campaign of terror against Jewish people and their homes and businesses in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The violence, which continued through November 10 and was later dubbed “Kristallnacht,” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after the countless smashed windows of Jewish-owned establishments, left approximately 100 Jews dead, 7,500 Jewish businesses damaged and hundreds of synagogues, homes, schools and graveyards vandalized. An estimated 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, many of whom were then sent to concentration camps for several months; they were released when they promised to leave Germany. Kristallnacht represented a dramatic escalation of the campaign started by Adolf Hitler in 1933 when he became chancellor to purge Germany of its Jewish population.
The Nazis used the murder of a low-level German diplomat in Paris by a 17-year-old Polish Jew as an excuse to carry out the Kristallnacht attacks. On November 7, 1938, Ernst vom Rath was shot outside the German embassy by Herschel Grynszpan, who wanted revenge for his parents’ sudden deportation from Germany to Poland, along with tens of thousands of other Polish Jews. Following vom Rath’s death, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels ordered German storm troopers to carry out violent riots disguised as “spontaneous demonstrations” against Jewish citizens. Local police and fire departments were told not to interfere. In the face of all the devastation, some Jews, including entire families, committed suicide.
In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the Nazis blamed the Jews and fined them 1 billion marks (or $400 million in 1938 dollars) for vom Rath’s death. As repayment, the government seized Jewish property and kept insurance money owed to Jewish people. In its quest to create a master Aryan race, the Nazi government enacted further discriminatory policies that essentially excluded Jews from all aspects of public life.
Over 100,000 Jews fled Germany for other countries after Kristallnacht. The international community was outraged by the violent events of November 9 and 10. Some countries broke off diplomatic relations in protest, but the Nazis suffered no serious consequences, leading them to believe they could get away with the mass murder that was the Holocaust in which an estimated 6 million European Jews died.
"We should remember Kristallnacht by fighting hatred, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Romaphobia and all other bigotry. We should protect the state of Israel so that Jews, unlike in 1938, have a homeland. And we should defend the right of persecuted people to seek and be granted asylum. There was no such right in November 1938. Victims of Nazi persecution were trapped. Even if they managed to flee the Nazis, the countries to which they fled could send them right back," wrote Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, the international Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht in 2013.
For some people, the anniversary came at a raw moment as the United States elected Donald Trump who has been accused of appealing to anti-Semitics, as its next president.
The Trump campaign has been accused of stroking some of its followers anti-Semitic beliefs, such as by using a in a campaign spot about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in July. More recently, Trump supporters yelled "Lügenpresse," or lying press, during a campaign rally in October. The defamatory word was often used in Nazi Germany to describe critics of Hitler's regime.
Hillary Clintion and the Star of David in a Fox News Ad
For intelligent and right-minded people, waking up on the anniversary of Kristallnacht to the news that America elected a demagogue more than difficult to comprehend. You can't make this stuff up.
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