Sunday, November 09, 2008

Another Night In November

Seventy years ago, a violent pogrom against Jewish residents of Germany erupted on the night of November 9, 1938. 

In a well orchestrated response to the assassination of diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a Jew, a fury of destruction and murder broke over the heads of the Jews of Germany. About a hundred were killed, uncounted thousands were beaten by Nazi thugs, more were arrested and sent to prison camps, and hundreds of Jewish stores, homes, businesses and temples were smashed, looted and torched.

Ordinary Germans who maybe didn't pick up a brick and toss it through a window, or smash a Jew with a clenched fist, turned their heads and looked away-to their eternal dishonor. 

To add insult to injury, the Jews of Germany were saddled with paying the Nazis to clean up the mess they'd made as part of a coordinated policy of extracting every last pfennig from the Jews before they were unceremoniously disposed of even unto the teeth in their heads and the hair on them. 

If you'd like to understand how a subject people were made to pay for their own executions, read "Hitler's Beneficiaries" by Gotz Aly. It's grim but informative reading.

Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass, marked the start of a tectonic shift in German thinking from ad hoc expulsion and abuse to state sponsored and funded, systematic eradication of an entire group of people. 

In this season of hope with so much riding on the election we've just witnessed, it is well to remember and light a candle for the people of a different November evening seventy years ago and what that signified for a world that figured what happened in Germany wasn't their problem.

Photo credit Yad Vashem.


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