Some Reflections on the Anniversary of Kristallnacht


                                                            Ruth King


In late October of 1938, 20,000 Jewish residents of Germany who were of Polish origin were rousted in the middle of the night and deported.  However, Poland declared them non-citizens and closed the borders.  The Jews, men, women and children, were finally herded to a border town and they remained there stranded in abominable conditions.  Most of them were subsequently sent to the Warsaw Ghetto.


In Paris, a seventeen year old boy, Hershel Grynspan, the child of a couple among those dislocated and suffering Jews, received a note from his desperate family detailing the suffering and anguish of the group.  On November 7th, enraged and helpless, living a life which he later described as worse than a dog’s, he took a pistol to the German embassy and shot to death an official named Ernst Von Rath.


Two days later, Germany erupted into an evening of vandalism and brutality which lasted for almost twenty four hours.  When it subsided, nearly 200 synagogues were burned, 815 Jewish-owned shops were demolished, warehouses and homes were set on fire and 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps.


There were some, even among Jews, who thought this pogrom was occasioned by Von Rath’s murder.  In fact, the plans for “the night of shattered glass” were conceived several months earlier as a warning to the Jews.


Many years later, a friend of my parents who lived through that night described the events of the next day in Berlin.  He was a physician, a “dozent” professor, a disciple of Roentgen, and well respected in the academy.  The picture of the perfect Teuton, he affected the closely shaven head of the Germans and had a “messerschnit’ - a fencing scar on his cheek.  He was convinced that at the university, in his mind the bastion of liberal thought, of the pursuit of truth and justice, he would be welcomed by commiserating colleagues appalled by this violent national tantrum.


When he arrived at the University, his colleagues turned their backs on him, the students jeered and he was summarily dismissed.  He was fortunate to leave Germany on one of the last ships from Hamburg.


On the fiftieth anniversary of Kristallnacht I attended a memorial at which was screened a documentary on “The Night of Shattered Glass.”  The late Cardinal O’Connor attended in spite of a high fever.  He had, for many years, placed a memorial candle on the window of the residence in St. Patrick’s Cathedral to remind passersby of the terrible events of that night.  The frail Cardinal, calling himself a “fellow Semite,” said that for him that particular evening was extremely important.  Even though many worse events were to take place, Kristallnacht was the warning that should have been heeded by the civilized world.


Nonetheless, the “civilized world” went about its business. 

  • In America and Canada the authorities were tightening immigration laws against Europe’s Jews. 
  • In England, where the infamous Munich Pact was signed only eight weeks earlier on September 29th,
  • the gates of Palestine, slated by British law to be the safe harbor of the world’s Jews, clamped shut, trapping millions of European Jews. 
  • In Russia where millions of Jews lived a miserable existence, a non-aggression pact with Hitler had been sighed in August 1938. 
  • Most painful of all, the Evian conference of July 6th, 1938 found no takers for any sizeable number of Jewish refugees among the Western nations, with the exception of Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic.  (Unfortunately, due to the rapid escalation of the war against the Jews, only 900 Jews actually got there.)


I am lately obsessed with these events.  I ask myself: How would Kristallnacht be covered by the media today?  Outrage?  Perhaps, but the “root cause” theorists would soon bring up the murder of Rath, even though these events were already on course long before Grynspan’s fateful visit to the embassy.  After all, the apologists for the murderous spree known as the Intifada, which has claimed the lives of over one thousand innocent civilians, routinely blame it on a perfectly legal visit Prime Minister Sharon made to the Temple Mount.


And, what of the academies today?  They should be bastions of liberal thought and the pursuit of justice and truth.  Are they? 

·         Melanie Phillips has described England’s “descent into madness” as its academics boycott and viciously malign Israel. 

·         Here in America, Columbia University is given irrefutable evidence of anti-Israel bias in a classroom.  After an “investigation” the culprit professor is given a rap on the wrist and offered tenure! 

·         On October 21, 2005, Yale University hosted a crackpot “historian,” Holocaust denier and blackbelt hater of Israel, Norman Finkelstein.  The audience of about sixty persons included generally sympathetic faculty members, while the students were evenly split between detractors and sympathizers. 

·         Like a student making the college circuit, Finkelstein is now off to lecture at Harvard and doubtless other Ivy League schools will line up to invite him.


At Harvard, President Summers and law professor Alan Dershowitz fought off the movement to divest from Israel … but for how long?  The movement continues to gather steam.  The increasing and shrill anti-Israel rhetoric and campaigns at universities is international.  Historian Ephraim Karsh has labeled it the “Academic Intifada.”


Mainline churches here an in England parrot the Arab line and promote divestment, the code word for economic sanctions against Israel.  Even modern day blood libels such as the Al-Dura scandal are given a wide and credulous audience.


And what about entertainment and the media? 

  • A new movie screened in Germany supposedly dealing with the Arab/Israel conflict is described as violently anti-Israel;
  • the BBC routinely slanders Israel;
  • even the Munich terrorists will be given a human face in a forthcoming movie by the very same producer who is a founding member of the Shoah foundation. 
  • Movies show moral equivalence between monsters and victims. 
  • Everyone has a legitimate “grievance” and the most fashionable “grievance” of all is that of Israel’s Arab enemies.


The mainline newspapers – even those in states like Great Britain, Holland and France – all directly threatened with Jihad, do not lessen their daily anti-Israel screeds.


Again, I dwell on the harbingers of Kristallnacht. 


Something is happening now. 


There is a war within a war. 


While the entire Western world and our civilization are threatened by Isalm and Jihad, the war against Israel strengthens. 


By now, one might think that only a person living on Mars would fail to see the trajectory between systematic delegitimation of Israel and overt anti-Semitism. 


Only pachyderms do not feel the sting and continue to strut their disdain for the “occupation,” feeding the enemy that would consume them.


This is not the work of Islam alone.  Moslems, like the Nazis, are tapping into a rich vein of the ancient hatred of Jews and they are finding accomplices. 




The night of shattered hopes is descending …


First the Saturday people …



Ruth King is a member of Outpost’s editorial board.



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