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Jews Mark 82nd Anniversary of Nazis’ Kristallnacht Pogroms

Around the world, Jewish communities hold virtual events to remember the Nazis’ organized attacks on Jews on November 9-10, 1938

Bahrain’s ambassador to the US will participate in one of the many Jewish commemorations of Kristallnacht, the November 9-10, 1938 Nazi-organized violence against Jews and their property that marked the beginning of the end for six million of them.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa will join Rabbi Marc Schneier, whose Foundation for Ethic Understanding has worked to build Muslim-Jewish ties, to mark the 82nd anniversary of the “Night of Broken Glass” or November Pogrom in Austria, Germany and parts of Czechoslovakia. The commemoration, like others throughout the world, will be held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On that night, the Nazis killed nearly 100 Jews and destroyed about 7,500 Jewish synagogues, homes, schools and businesses. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and put into concentration camps.

“For German Jews, it was the night they understood they had no future in Nazi Germany even though they were natives of that” country, said Yona Kobo, the curator of the online Kristallnacht exhibition at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. The exhibition illustrates the stories of victims and survivors.

“We are telling [what happened] in a unique way,” she told The Media Line. “When people think of that evening or the days that followed it. … We’re not only telling them about the burning synagogues and the desecrated Torah scrolls, we are telling what people felt, how they react to what they have been through.”

The exhibition includes a photograph of 2-year-old Lore Mayerfield Stern with her doll, Inge. On the night of November 9, the toddler and her mother were hidden by Christian neighbors in Kassel, Germany. She was in her pajamas when they went to the neighbors. They eventually moved to the US, and Lore’s doll, a gift from her grandmother, was one of the few items she could take.

“The doll today is wearing the pajama that Lore wore that night. So, for her, it was a living reminder of that night. She was very small. She doesn’t remember,” Kobo said. A photo of the doll in pajamas is also in the online show.

Inge, Lore Mayerfield Stern’s doll wearing the pajamas she wore in hiding during Kristallnacht. (From November Pogrom exhibition, courtesy of Yad Vashem)

The exhibition also includes a picture of Aron and Minna Zack’s passport. They lived in Neidenburg, Germany with their five children. Half of the passport’s registration was crossed out because Minna was stabbed and died of her wounds on November 10, 1938. Aron and some of the children suffered knife wounds. They emigrated to Argentina, with Aron using the same passport, which was valid for one year.

“He used it because he couldn’t get another passport. It was issued on October 5, 1938. They didn’t give Jews more than a year to get out of Germany,” Kobo said.

The people who attacked the Zack family were eventually tried in Germany. One of the children, Kurt Zack, traveled from Buenos Aires to testify against the perpetrators. He still bore the scars of the knife attack on his arms.

Aron and Minna Zack’s passport, which Aron used to emigrate to Argentina. The details for Minna, who was killed November 10, 1938, are crossed out. (From November Pogrom exhibition, courtesy of Yad Vashem)

“He broke down in tears during the trial. The judge saw the scars on his arms; that is the reminder of the night his mother was murdered. When he was asked how he felt, Zack said that he was not seeking vengeance and that he pitied the wife and children of the people who attacked [his family] in November 1938,” Kobo said.

In Krakow, Poland, the Jewish community that is geographically nearest to the Auschwitz death camp, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) is also commemorating Kristallnacht.

“We at the JCC Krakow, as the Jewish community closest to Auschwitz, the eternal symbol of the hatred and evil of the Holocaust, have a special place in the Jewish world and a special responsibility,” JCC Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein told The Media Line. “Our community, made up of Polish Holocaust survivors and their descendants, chooses to look forward toward a brighter future by working every day to build Jewish life in a place that has seen such pain and darkness.”

“On Kristallnacht, as well as Yom HaShoah [Israeli Holocaust Day], and International Holocaust Remembrance Day we remember by honoring the victims and survivors in the most meaningful, important way we can: rebuilding Jewish life in their honor, for their families.”

On November 9th, the community is joining the March of the Living, which brings people from around the world to Poland and Israel to study the Holocaust. They are also participating in the March’s “Let There Be Light” initiative, in which buildings are lit up on November 9 in solidarity against antisemitism and other types of hatred.

“We will keep our building’s lights on overnight as we remember what happened, to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” Ornstein said.

In Toronto, the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre is hosting an online lecture by Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter.

The associate director of communications for the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Adir Krafman, told The Media Line that “CIJA joins Jewish Canadians and other communities around the world in commemorating Kristallnacht.

“A harbinger of things to come, Kristallnacht unleashed a wave of brutality and destruction that set the stage for the systematic murder of six million Jews. Sadly, the memory of Kristallnacht is revived today as we are confronted by a rising tide of global antisemitism,” Krafman said.

“Thankfully, much of the world refuses to stand idle, and many countries, including Canada, are taking steps to identify and combat the scourge of anti-Jewish hate in all its contemporary forms,” he added.

In a move to clarify what antisemitism is, the Ontario provincial government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of the scourge on October 27.

Another Jewish organization in Canada issued a warning.

“As we commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom in Nazi Germany and Austria in 1938, in which over 1,300 synagogues were destroyed, nearly 100 Jews were murdered and 30,000 imprisoned, we must remain vigilant in the face of rising antisemitism around the world. Silence and complacency are never options when Jews are threatened. If Kristallnacht has any lasting message it is surely that,” Ran Ukashi, National Director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, told The Media Line.

In Los Angeles, the David Labkovski Project uses his art for Holocaust education. The project has a virtual exhibition hosted for the third year by Loyola Marymount University, with virtual tour guides. As part of a multidisciplinary teaching initiative first developed four years ago, students have an opportunity to put together their own museum collection and explain the artwork.

Photo courtesy of the David Labkovski Project. Painting is of David Labkovski Project founder and executive director Leora Raikin’s great-grandparents’ home in Vilna, Lithuania, before the war (painted by David Labkovski)

Labkovski, who lived from 1906 to 1991, survived the Holocaust because he was banished to Siberia from his hometown of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Leora Raikin, the project’s executive director, told The Media Line: “As founder of the organization, I truly believe in the universal language of art to engage students and allow them to connect in a deeper way with the subject matter: the Holocaust.”

“The focus of the program is not only understanding the lead up to the Holocaust and how people died but how they lived for hundreds of years in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust.

“Our [educational] approach allows students to become physically involved in telling the story, while analyzing Labkovski’s narrative and graphic art,” she said. “Students look for clues and deeper meaning in the brushstrokes, colors, shades. … We encourage the students to analyze posture and facial expressions to gain true understanding of the emotional pain and horror.”