Kristallnacht: Marking 80 years since ‘The Night of Broken Glass’

Black-and-white photo of broken windows, two people walking by

The night after Kristallnacht. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9: The sound of broken glass still echoes around the world on November 9, as communities remember the tragic events that took place in 1938 during Kristallnacht.

Literally “Crystal Night,” Kristallnacht was so called for the shattered glass that covered streets and sidewalks after thousands of Jewish synagogues and buildings were destroyed. Kristallnacht was a coordinated series of attacks by the Nazis in Germany and Austria; German law-enforcement officials were ordered not to intervene during the destruction. Jewish persecution moved into a dramatically public and violent phase, and while their schools, stores, hospitals and places of worship were being destroyed, Jews were beaten in the streets and detained for concentration camps.

In 2018, a range of events—from documentary screenings to memorial articles to exhibits and programs—will mark the anniversary of “The Night of Broken Glass.”

Foreign journalists in Germany reported on the events, alerting their respective homelands of the shocking events: For the first time, the public fully understood the alarming intentions of the Nazi regime. International support of pro-Nazi movements declined almost overnight, and many reports compared Kristallnacht to the gruesome pogroms of Imperial Russia. As was written in The Times of Kristallnacht: No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.

Kristallnacht marked a public turning point in the Nazi regime. The attacks on Jewish neighbors, businesses and houses of worship shocked the world; the Nazi regime’s intentions could no longer be denied. The 1,400 synagogues attacked on Kristallnacht, the 90 Jews murdered that night, and the 30,000 Jews detained for concentration camps foretold of the tragedies to come.

LEADING TO KRISTALLNACHT

In the 1920s, German Jews lived as other citizens: operating businesses, obtaining licenses and having access to education. Yet with the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, things quickly began to change. Hitler immediately introduced anti-Jewish policies and forbade inter-religious marriage. When Jews sought refuge, foreign countries began locking down admissions. In August 1938, residence permits for foreigners were cancelled; thousands of Jews were forced from their homes with nowhere to go, their possessions seized by Nazi authorities. It was with these expulsions that the ground was laid for Kristallnacht.

Among those expelled from Germany was the family of Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Jew living in Paris with his uncle. When his family wrote, pleading for help, Grynszpan assassinated German diplomat Ernst vom Rath—stating that his protest had to be heard around the world. The following day, the German government removed Jewish children from public schools and halted Jewish cultural activities and publications. When word of vom Rath’s death reached Hitler, a pogrom was organized—an act that Hitler and his inner circle had been planning already, just awaiting a trigger like the shooting.

Kristallnacht ensued that evening.

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Categories: International ObservancesJewish

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day: Americans recall events of 1941

Sailors in white uniforms hold large American flag, near blue water and USS Arizona Memorial in distance

Sailors pay tribute near the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Photo by U.S. Navy, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7: It was the day that would “live in infamy”: On this date in 1941, just before 8 a.m., Japanese planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The raid lasted two hours. By the end, many American naval vessels had been destroyed, more than 2,400 American soldiers, sailors and civilians had died, and upward of 1,000 more were wounded. (View historic photos from the National Archives and more, here.)

The Japanese force had succeeded in demolishing eight massive battleships and hundreds of American airplanes. On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Soon after, America joined in World War II.

The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941, but it wasn’t until decades later—in 1994—that National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day was designated for Dec. 7 of each year. (Wikipedia has details.) Traditionally, the American Flag is flown at half-staff until sunset, to honor those whose lives were lost. Many Americans plan visits to memorials that were erected in Pearl Harbor and across the United States.

A SPECIAL WEBCAST

This year, National Park Service and the U.S. Navy have announced “a joint memorial ceremony commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 2014 on the main lawn of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, looking directly out to the USS Arizona Memorial, at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.”

More than 2,500 guests are expected to attend, including Pearl Harbor survivors and WWII veterans. The event will be broadcast live via webcast so that those who cannot travel to Hawaii can still participate. The webcast will include a special behind the scenes look at the ceremony and will feature live interviews with Pearl Harbor Survivors. However, online registration to view the event is required.

The ceremony will include music by the Navy’s U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, morning colors, a Hawaiian blessing, a cannon salute by members of the U.S. Army, wreath presentations, echo taps. A moment of silence will be observed at 7:55 a.m., the exact moment the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began. A U.S. Navy ship will render honors to the USS Arizona, and a flyover will be conducted above Pearl Harbor.

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Categories: Anniversary