Exactly 75 years ago, on the 9th and 10th of November 1938, the Nazis conducted a furious attacks on Jews. They set fire to their shops and synagogues, destroyed their homes. Also known as the ‘night of broken glass’, the Kristallnacht marked a new phase in the anti-Semitic policy of the Nazis. During the early years of the Nazi-rule in Germany Jews were discriminated and suppressed, but they were allowed to live their lives to a certain extent. The outburst of anti-Semitic violence proved to be a prelude to an even worse fate: the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust. During this night, 91 Jews were killed. The next day, 30.000 were transported to the concentration camps. Today, this event is remembered all over the world and questions regarding enduring anti-Semitism emerge. Today the Kristallnacht remembered around the world.
‘Stolpersteine’, stumbling stones for remembrance
In Berlin the ‘Stolpersteine‘ are cleaned. These metal slabs, about 10 cm in height and width, are placed on walking roads all over Europe. They have an inscription on them. As a passer-by ‘stumbles’ over the stone, he will pause for a moment and read the description. Each inscribed name commemorates a victim of the Nazi-regime. About 13.000 are placed, mostly dedicated to Jewish victims. The cleaning of these stones in Berlin is accompanied with a solemn ceremony, and music is staged composed by persecuted Jews in the Third Reich. Many other cities in Germany have similar ceremonies, either with revelation of new monuments music, the lighting of candles, or speeches made by prominent politicians.
Joachim Gauck: Every man is responsible for his own deeds
In Berlin, President Joachim Gauck honoured the heroes of the resistance against the Nazi dictatorship. He stated that men always have the choice to do the right thing and follow his conscience, even when the circumstances are bad. As a heroic example he focussed on the life Otto Weidt, a factory owner who employed mainly blind and deaf Jews during the Second World War. He tried to save them from deportation to the extermination camps.
Churches want to keep the remembrance
The president of the protestant Synod of the North Church, Andreas Tietze, has stated that the church has to help to keep the memory of the Kristallnacht alive. He further expresses the shame he feels, that his church kept silent as their Jewish fellow citizens excluded, discriminated, expelled and finally murdered. His catholic counterpart, the archbishop Ludwig Schick, fears anti-Semitism is growing today. ‘Even if you laugh on jokes about Jews, you are complicit’. The archbishop further recalled that too few stoop up for the Jews.
A ‘Romantic Kristallnacht’?
All these solemn ceremonies in Germany are blown away by the stupidity of an online marketing campaign made by a Spa in Bad Klosterlausnitz. They invited everyone to come to the Long Romantic Crystal night on the 9th of November – with candles placed all over the baths. Although the Spa soon withdrew this announcement, a public outcry followed – it’s hard to imagine this mix-up was a pure coincidental folly. I so, all these memorial services clearly have missed their target.