On Nov. 9 and 10, Jewish communities around the world remember Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.”
On these days in 1938 Nazi Stormtroopers and civilians swept through Nazi Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland, attacking Jewish-owned businesses, community buildings and synagogues. As the smoke from the attacks cleared, the streets were littered with shards of glass from the windows that had been smashed (hence the name Kristallnacht.) The authorities stood by and did nothing to halt the destruction, which was carried out ostensibly in response to the assassination in Paris of a German diplomat by a Jewish teen.
By the end of the pogrom, 7,000 businesses had been damaged or destroyed, 267 synagogues had been demolished, and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Historians estimate that hundreds of Jewish men died, either as direct victims of the violence, due to injuries suffered during their incarceration, or due to suicide after arrests. Kristallnacht marks what many historians view as the beginning of the Holocaust.
How can we remember and respond to Kristallnacht? The events of 2020 call on us to come together not simply to remember, but to stand against hatred in all its forms. This year, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples around the world have been invited to participate in a global campaign of unity called “Let There Be Light.” This statement of unity is organized by The International March of the Living, a group which has, for the last 30 years, brought Jews and non-Jews together to Poland to learn from and in remembrance of the Holocaust.
Congregation Ahavas Achim of Keene, in partnership with the Jewish Clergy Association of New Hampshire, encourages all of New Hampshire’s religious institutions to join this campaign of awareness and solidarity by leaving their exterior and interior lights on throughout Nov. 9 and 10. Together we can illuminate the Monadnock Region, the state of New Hampshire and our world with the message of acceptance, understanding and peace. To learn more about those institutions which have already committed to keeping their lights on, and to join this action, visit https://kristallnacht.motl.org/#contact.
Private citizens, too, can help spread the message of “Let There Be Light.” If and when you are asked why your house of worship is all lit up, teach people about Kristallnacht. Sadly, houses of worship are not immune from those who carry out acts of violence against those who may be different from us. This was made clear in recent years by the attacks on the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, S.C., the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., and the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France.
It remains incumbent on each and every one of us to do what we can to be points of light, and to illuminate the darkness which too often threatens our world.