Posted by: Fr Chris | November 9, 2017

Never Again? Kristallnacht in 2017

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, the Nazi regime unleashed a wave of “spontaneous” violence across the entire Third Reich, including newly annexed Austria.  The name basically can be translated as Night of Broken Glass from all the windows smashed in Jewish businesses, homes, and temples.

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Broken shop windows of Jewish business

Thousands of Jewish businesses were looted, Jewish synagogues burned while firemen poured water on adjacent buildings so as to prevent the fires from spreading, and Jewish men and boys sent off to the concentration camps built in the previous five years to hold the Nazis’ political opponents and undesirables.

Synagogue ablaze 

With this carefully managed nation-wide assault, the Nazis’ planned to drive out all of the Jews remaining in Germany and former Austria – except since they refused to let them leave with any real wealth, and due to anti-Jewish diplomats in Canada, the United States, Latin America, and much of Europe, there were few refuges left for Jews in 1938.

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Stepping from the murderous Night of Broken Glass to the organized mass slaughter proposed at the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, was a very short step indeed.

From that Conference came the ideas of mass executions in the conquered regions of the Soviet Union by the dreaded Einsatzgruppen  of the SS and locally recruited henchmen (carefully recording how many Jews, Communists, and presumed partisans were shot), then the gas chambers of death camps, and starving the inmates of the ghettos to death. This documentary details the work of the Einsatzgruppen, with interviews of survivors, but be aware there are photographs taken by the executioners.

Be aware that the German film showing happy residents of Lemberg (Polish Lwow, L’viv today) at being delivered from two years of Soviet terror is accurate – but they would quickly learn that they were sub-humans in Nazi ideology. The mass killings of Jewish neighbors and townsfolk  has left many of the local Christians who witnessed it emotionally numb and damaged to this day, as Father Patrick Desbois has learned in his mission to uncover all of the mass graves of the region. This was worsened by the Soviets’ forbidding them to ever speak of it, as the emphasis was on commemorating the Soviet liberation of 1944-45, not Jewish deaths. 

As awareness of the scope of the Holocaust grew after 1945, the slogan “Never Again” became associated with it. Initially it referred to “never again” would there be a mass slaughter of Jews, later it grew to encompass all genocides. Unfortunately, genocides have taken place since, in full view of the entire world thanks to mass media, in former Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Cambodia, Communist China, Nubia and Darfur in Sudan. However, while killings of Jews continued in different nations, especially in Israel and the occupied West Bank, it seemed that at least that lesson had stuck.

Now I wonder. The BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel over the Palestinian issue has steadily degenerated into hatred of Israel and the Jewish people, as repeated demonstrations on university campuses often show. Equating Israel’s mistakes regarding the Palestinians with Nazism and calling Jewish Israelis Nazis is beyond offensive, yet it continues to spread in Europe and North America.

The Netherlands saw 75% of its Jews deported to death camps under Nazi rule, often with the help of Dutch collaborators: over 102,000 innocent people slaughtered because of their identity as Jews, be they Christian, religious Jews, or secular. Yet today’s observance of Kristallnacht in Holland was marked with presentations that frankly are anti-Semitic: cf.

Watch this interview with a survivor of Kristallnacht –  How in the world can there be people who think commemorating the atrocities of 1938 by condemning Israel and Jews?

Bad enough that in Berlin, commemorative Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones” ,which are put in front of the houses or on streets with  the names of Jews taken from their homes and murdered, have been dug up before Kristallnacht this year.

The site where the Stolpersteine were stolen in Neukölln, Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)

On Long Island, a local mother took a photograph of a car with the bumper sticker “Proud Anti-Semite” on it driving on Route 110! Proud? How can that be?

'Proud Anti-Semite' bumper sticker a sign of the times, ADL says

How can any American ever carry a Nazi flag? Or shout “Away with the Jews!”?

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Hatred of “others” never brings about any good results. The Soviet Communists did it to their opponents, lumping them into categories: bourgeois middle-class; believers; clergy, monks and nuns; supposedly wealthy peasants (kulaks); people from the wrong ethnic groups (Germans, Chechen, Ingush, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Karakai, Karakalpaks, Jews, Balkars, Turks, Finns and Estonians who lived near Leningrad). Chinese Communists did it to intellectuals, monks, nuns, believers, engineers, anyone who could be considered an “enemy”, a category that continues to shift to this day. Racism gets us nowhere. Ditto for class hatred, anti-Semitism, sexism, anti-Catholicism, and all the other anti’s floating around today in our enlightened world.

That news stories for Kristallnacht today contain stories of anti-Israel BDS activists and Holocaust deniers stuns me. That the internet is filled with Holocaust denial is tragic: too many young people do not have a critical sense when surfing the Net and think that if someone took the time to publish it, it must be true. Talk about fake news!

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On this Kristallnacht anniversary, may all people of good will step up and dotheir best to counter hatred, and remind Americans and others that God made everyone in His image and likeness, male and female, and He saw that it was good. Deliver us, O Lord, from  hatred. Lead us, O Lord, to peace.

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  1. I have not yet read your latest installment, Fr. Chris, but I just wanted to say thank you for your efforts in posting and evangelizing online. It is difficult to find active Byzantine Catholic blogging available in English. Thank you again and God bless.

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