This past weekend was the eighty-first anniversary of Kristallnacht, the famed Night of Broken Glass. The Nazi German nationwide pogrom against the Jewish occurred on November 9th and 10th, 1938. The murder of a Hitler-backed diplomat Ernst von Rath by a Polish-Jewish teenager had angered Hitler and caused a chief SS jurist (Walter Buch) to launch a series of pogroms. The Stormabeitlung (the Nazi military) and Hitler Youth had cooperated to wreck over 7500 Jewish businesses, thus the name Kristallnacht, which means “crystal night.” Moreover, they had held torches to burn down synagogues, stores, and anything related to the Jewish community. German police and emergency services were ordered to do nothing other than extinguish fires that had affected non-Jewish property. Over 91 Jews had died in the incident, and over 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps such as Dachau and Buchenwald.
This event is a harsh reminder of the inhumane anti-Semitism that plagued not only the Aryans, but even other Europeans and Americans. Kristallnacht was only a precursor to the seven years of the horrific Holocaust which consisted of a long list of crimes committed against the simplest moral rule: human rights. A few of these crimes included mass genocide of the Jewish, harsh labor with no food or clothing, and the Mengele experiements which were completely beyond anyone’s imagination At this point, Jews received a wake-up call that this anti-Semitistm would not be temporary, and would only escalate.
1945 marked the end of the Second World War, and Jews were released from prison camps while Nazis were tried at the Nuremberg trials. It was to be a happy ending to the seemingly never ending slew of violence. The problem was, it wasn’t.
Antisemitic attacks continued in the years of 1945, 1946, etc., and even today. An era of harsh discrimination was to be over, and yet it’s still widespread. For example, in the Kielce pogrom, over a year after VE day (May 8, 1945, the surrender of the Nazis), 42 Jews were killed following the false accusation of a Jew kidnapping a Christian boy. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Stalin carried out the Doctors’ Plot, in which Jewish doctors were accused of conspiring against Soviet authorities and thus dismissed and arrested. Neo-Nazis attempted to bomb a Moscow synonague in 1999; nine Jews were stabbed seven years later at the same synagogue. An al-Qaeda-inspired assailant murdered three Jews in 2012, followed by a French-Jewish teenager getting assaulted on a train three months later. In 2014, a mob chanted “Death to the Jews” at a synagogue, four were murdered in 2015, an elderly woman thrown off her balcony in 2017, and another set on fire in 2018. Although all of these incidents occurred in Europe, we witnessed our share of anti-Semitism in 2018 when eleven Jews were murdererd at the Tree of Life synanogue in Pittsburgh.
Whether it was the fear of revenge or a habit that manifested because of Nazi influence, these anti-Semitism attacks are undoubtedly severe calamities filled with unnecessary hate. What’s distressing is the increasing number of people trivializing the Holocaust or even being completely ignorant of it. According to a study reported by a conference on Jewish claims against Germany, about one-third of all Americans believed less than one-third of the actual death count died, and 45% of Americans could not name a single death/concentration camp. Only 84% identified Germany as a location the Holocaust took place, 37% identified Poland, and about 5% identified Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia. The most shocking data is that over one-fifth of Americans aren’t sure they have even heard of the Holocaust.
One might think that it’s not important to learn about the Holocaust since they aren’t Jewish or they don’t plan on becoming a historian; but the truth of the matter is that it is. The youngest of survivors would be at least seventy, and when their generation disappears, the stories and fates of two-thirds of the European Jewish population that died along with those who survived, will be forever lost. In addition, to prevent such brutal mass attacks against a certain race, we must learn the consequences and story of ones that have already occurred. After all, as the saying goes, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”