If we truly desire to memorialize those that perished in the Holocaust, we must ban religious persecution and genocide from this planet. To do anything less is to desecrate the memory of those that died

Remembering Kristallnacht

By —— Bio and Archives--November 9, 2018

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Remembering Kristallnacht
Eighty years ago, on the night of the 9th to the 10th of November, 1938, the Jewish People began a journey of exile from civilization that ultimately ended in Hell. The journey was not one taken of our own volition; rather, we were sent upon it by a nation reputed for its culture and enlightened, rational, scientific approach to the human condition, but which in reality became—for a period of twelve years—the earthly embodiment of absolute evil. Seventy-nine years ago, the sun disappeared from the sky and ceased to shine for the next seven years—eclipsed by hearts of darkness so thick that no light could penetrate their souls. Never before, and—we swear before Heaven and Earth—never again, such a wickedness that defies all attempts at redemption. Never before, such a ruthless, stone-hearted, systematic manifestation of total evil, and as long as we remember that seven-year eclipse of humanity, never again will we permit such a darkening of the moral climate on this planet. It may rain; it may snow, but never again will we permit such total darkness to engulf us. No, never again!


Kristallnacht—“The Night of the Broken Glass”

The event to which I refer is Kristallnacht—“The Night of the Broken Glass”, the time when the Nazis—may they and their name be blotted out, began their diabolical plans to destroy the Jewish People. Seventy-nine years ago, on the night of the 9th to the 10th of November, 1938, the Nazis began their pogroms with the systematic destruction of German and Austrian synagogues, some 267 in number, of which 76 were totally lost, and the remaining 191 badly burned out. Along with the destruction of synagogues and the smashing of windows and trashing of Jewish homes and businesses, the Gestapo arrested over 30,000 Jewish men, and in the process killed 36 and crippled another 36. My own parents—the newly installed Landesrabbiner and rebbitzen of Heidelberg—were spared by a rare bureaucratic oversight, and the good fortune of being almost unknown to their new non-Jewish neighbors in Heidelberg. The Gestapo searched for my father in Frankfurt, but overlooked the fact that he just had moved to Heidelberg the month before. That night, eighty years ago, his synagogue and the historic old synagogue were burned to the ground, and early on the morning of the 10th, the Gestapo began to arrest the adult male members of his congregation, sending 150 for internment in Dachau. That day, God must have sent a special angel to watch over my parents, for despite the general anti-Semitic fervor throughout the country, no harm befell them.
Of my father’s classmates from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau and the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin, most did not fare as well, being arrested and shipped off to Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen, where the winter weather brought frostbite and disease that killed many of them. Indeed, of the few that escaped the arrests or survived internment and managed to flee Germany, most thought that my father had perished in the camps.

Following his escape from harm during the roundups, my father went into hiding until my mother was able to ascertain from the Jewish Council in Cologne that it was safe for him to reappear in public. Shabbat that week was spent Karaite style—without benefit of heat or light—in the midst of the wintry forests of Baden-Württemberg. When he returned to Heidelberg, my father continued his duties as rabbi to his congregation for the next four months, meeting for services in private homes, and working to get visas for the children so as to get them out of the country, on a program that came to be known as “Kindertransport”. By the end of March 1939 my parents had received papers permitting them to go to England, arranged by my mother’s parents through the good offices of Baron James Rothschild and Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz. I owe my existence and my parents’ escape on Shabbat Pesach, April 1, 1939, from the conflagration engulfing Germany and Europe, to the very fortuitous fact that my maternal grandfather had been the personal physician of the Baroness de Rothschild in Frankfurt. His widow—my grandmother—the only grandmother that I knew as my father’s parents perished in the Holocaust—my grandmother thus knew which strings to pull in order to save her daughter and new son-in-law—my parents. She did not have similar success in rescuing her own mother, who despite being an American citizen, having been born in Washington, DC, in 1857, was deported to Theresienstadt in 1940 where she perished in 1943.

Kristallnacht marked the end of independent Jewish life in Germany

Following the pogrom of Kristallnacht, the German government imposed a fine of one billion mark (equal to $400 million) on the Jewish community, confiscated all insurance claims, and introduced additional laws to intensify the “Aryanization” of German economic life. The effect of these actions was to drive Jews out of the normal life of Germany, and fortunately, caused many German and Austrian Jews to seek a new life far from the borders of Germany.

Kristallnacht marked the end of independent Jewish life in Germany with the dissolution of many communal bodies and the banning of the Jewish press. After Kristallnacht, Jews were prey to the whims of the Nazis. Three and half years later, after the voyage of the S.S. St Louis—made famous in the novel and movie, “The Voyage of the Damned”, in the Spring of 1942, at the Wannsee conference outside Berlin, having proven to themselves that the world was indifferent to the plight of European Jewry, the Nazis decided to do the world a favor and implement “the Final Solution”. What started as 36 fatalities on Kristallnacht, ended up with 6 million Jews alone murdered by May 1945.


If Kristallnacht and the Holocaust are to have meaning beyond the Jewish world

If Kristallnacht and the Holocaust are to have meaning beyond the Jewish world, we must learn the lesson that tyranny and racism must be opposed at their inception. The Holocaust began on Kristallnacht with 36 fatalities; unchecked, it continued until it had consumed six million. Our cries of “Never again” have little meaning if not applied to all of humanity. “Never again” rings hollow if we fail to take notice and respond to persecution in North Korea, South America, Central Africa, Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Chechnya, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Tibet, and China. We need to acknowledge that other religions are on the receiving end of religious persecution and attempts at genocide. All religious minorities in Iran, but especially the Baha’i, Christians throughout the Arab world and a good part of Moslem Africa, the Copts of Egypt, the various Christian sects of Iraq, Lebanon, and Sunni-controlled Syria, the Sikhs of Kashmir, and the Falun Gong of the Peoples’ Republic of China, the Rohingya of Myanmar, the Yazidi of northern Iraq; all of the afore-mentioned groups feel the heavy boot of religious oppression.  Have we so quickly forgotten the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia, Rwanda, or Srebrenica? Has the Mt. Sinjar Massacre, the Rohingya exterminations and the recent Kirkuk butchery evaporated from our collective conscience?  Has Iranian ethnic cleansing of Sunnis and other non-Shiites in Syria even appeared on our radar these last several years? If we truly desire to memorialize those that perished in the Holocaust, we must ban religious persecution and genocide from this planet. To do anything less is to desecrate the memory of those that died.

May God grant us the wisdom, strength, fortitude, and courage to undertake and fulfill this sacred task.


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Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker, currently rabbi and education director of Congregation Hesed shel Emet in Pottstown.

Rabbi Zucker’s areas of political expertise include: the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS=VEVAK), the Iranian opposition (MEK/NCRI), Iran, Iraq, and Israel. His Judaic specialties include Bible and Biblical, Hellenistic, and Rabbinic history and archaeology, Sephardic and Ethiopian Jewries, and Jewish Education. He is the author of over ninety published articles on the Middle-East.

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