Kristallnacht’s timeless lesson

Converting the fires of Kristallnacht into the fire of Judaism and Jewish life.

Most of the time evil cloaks itself with some form of apparent righteousness. Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot and Chairman Mao killed millions for what they claimed were just causes that would benefit humankind. Many in the Moslem world mask their evil behavior and terrorism with the cloak of religion and faith.

To a certain extent, however, the brutal behavior of the evil of the Nazis and Germans towards the Jewish people was an exception to this rule. Here was raw evil unmasked and unashamed with no excuses presented and no justification advanced. And this clear revelation was on world display on the night of Kristallnacht.

Synagogues burned to the ground, Jews killed and arrested and sent to concentration camps, Jewish stores and homes destroyed and vandalized — all of this occurred on that black night in November 1938. It became clearer to those who wanted to see it that the Final Solution was going to become a reality.

Kristallnacht was the watershed event in the destruction of European Jewry. Kristallnacht was the watershed event in the destruction of European Jewry. The only question after Kristallnacht was whether anything could be done to save European Jewry from the planned disaster that Hitler and his cohorts wished to visit on the Jewish people.

Unfortunately the practical answer to this question of life and death turned out to be one of helplessness and almost surrender. Thus Kristallnacht should have removed the blinders from the eyes of the Western world as to what awaited them a few short months later from Germany — a world war that would destroy tens of millions and destroy Europe for generations. Part of the tragedy of Kristallnacht is that it did not send the necessary wakeup call to those who could have yet stood up to Germany. And so the deluge arrived.

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