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12:16 p.m. - 2004-11-10

Kristallnacht

Last night T and I went to a Kristallnacht Remembrance Service at the Jewish Synagogue downtown. As long as I’ve lived in Victoria (going on almost 20 years) I have wanted to see inside this beautiful historical Synagogue. Its proper name is Temple Emanu El, I think. This Synagogue is the oldest in Canada, but I can’t find what year it was built.

None-the-less - I will quote directly from the hand-out given last night.

“The term “Kristallnacht” (“Night of Broken Glass”) refers to the organized anti-Jewish riots in German and Austria on November 9th and 10th, 1938. These riots marked a major transition in Nazi policy, and were, in many ways, a harbinger of the “Final Solution.”

Nazi anti-Semitic policy began with the systematic legal, economic, and social disenfranchisement of the Jews. This was accomplished in various stages (e.g. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which, among other things, stripped German Jews of their citizenship.) One of the steps involved the deportation of an estimated 56,500 Polish Jews who were residing in Germany. On the night of October 27, 1938, 17,000 Polish Jews were deported, but were initially refused entry into Poland by the Polish authorities. Caught in between, the Jews were forced to camp out at the border in makeshift shelters. Upon hearing that his family was so trapped, 17 year-old Herschel Grynszpan, a student in Paris, shot the third secretary of the German Embassy, Ernst von Rath, whom he mistook for the ambassador. This assassination, on November 7, served as a welcome pretext for the German initiation of Kristallnacht.

(Slight paraphrasing in this paragraph) The head of the Reich Main Security Office, which oversaw the Gestapo, and police, sent a secret telegram on November 10th, 1938 to all Headquarters and Stations of the State Police. He gave instructions for the immediate coordination of police and political activities in inciting the riots throughout Germany and Austria. “The demonstrations are not to be prevented by the police,” he ordered, rather, the police are “… only to supervise the observance of the guidelines.”

The result of this policy was the first violent pogrom, or anti-Jewish riot, on Western European soil in hundred of years. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 91 Jews were murdered by storm-troopers; 30,000 more were deported to concentration camps; more than 1,500 synagogues (nearly all German Synagogues) were damaged or destroyed, and over 7,000 Jewish shops, businesses, and homes were vandalized and ransacked.

Immediately after Kristallnacht, a fine of one billion marks was levied, not upon the criminals, but upon the victims, the Jewish community of German. Along with the fine came a decision, taken in a conference of Nazi leaders on November 12th, 1938, to “Aryanize the German economy, to get the Jew out …” Nazi policy had now moved into the overt destruction of all Jewish life in the Third Reich.

Kristallnacht serves as the symbol of that destruction. The synagogues and Torah scrolls that were burned and desecrated signified, as Berlin Rabbi Leo Baech had earlier realized, that “the thousand-year history of the Jews in Germany had come to an end.” It is that noble history and glorious legacy of German Jewry that we remember on Kristallnacht, a legacy of religious scholarship, intellectual creativity and scientific achievement. Nobel Prize winners and rabbinic scholars, businessmen and soldiers, government ministers and social activists all had their worlds shattered, along with the thousands of windows that gave Kristallnacht its name.”

This was not so much a remembrance of all the Jews who died in the holocaust, but all a realization of the change in social structure in Germany. This year marked the 66th year since the beginning of Kristallnacht.

I have had a deep abiding respect for the Jewish faith community for many years. It’s history, and traditions are the basis of my faith, and Christianity today. To quote a bumper sticker I’ve seen, and I find it true for me – “My boss is a Jewish Carpenter”.

Along with a re-telling of this story, there were many readings and prayers. A choir sang a couple of Jewish/Hebrew hymns. And a visiting Russian Jew called a chant from the torah – it gave me shivers.

Although I feel that the Jews missed the point when it comes to Christ – they are a people who are deeply entrenched in traditions that date back thousands of years. I found it very interesting to hear familiar bible stories re-told through a Jewish perspective. Not unlike the telling I would hear on a Sunday, but with a reverence that shows a long, deep, sincere love of the Lord God Almighty.

The God that they love and follow is also the same God that I love and follow, yet on a slightly different path or vision. It was an evening that left me thinking and pondering.

Tomorrow – as we all take a moment to remember the men and women who fought, and many died, for this country’s freedom, also take a moment to remember the unnecessary deaths of hundred’s of thousands Jews.

Blessings – LJ

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