At a moment when the U.S. head of government spouts blatantly racist vitriol criminalizing people for their nationality, claims “they” don’t belong here, says “they” don’t understand “our” way of life, mobilizes the military to deport “them” and sets up concentration camps in the Southwest desert for adults and children — the meaning of “Kristallnacht” takes on special significance.
November 9 was the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Crystal Night, also known as Night of the Broken Glass. On this night in 1938 in Germany and Austria, Nazis carried out the single biggest pogrom ever known up to that moment.
Pogroms were anti-Jewish riots staged on behalf of the ruling classes in Eastern European countries. A series of pogroms in the late 1800s and early 1900s had driven a mass wave of Jewish immigration to the United States.
Bad as those earlier pogroms were, Kristallnacht was different — in scale and significance.
The Hitler regime’s anti-Jewish laws had been put in place starting in 1933. By 1938 life had become very hard for German Jews. Those who could had already fled. Then came Kristallnacht.
The Nazi holocaust against the Jewish people — the organized, centralized, methodical program of expulsion and extermination — began in earnest on the Night of the Broken Glass.
On Kirstallnacht, Nazi youth joined brownshirted storm troopers rampaging through the streets beating Jewish people and smashing property. Jewish homes, hospitals, synagogues, schools, stores and vehicles were attacked, vandalized and ransacked, demolished with sledgehammers.
Two hundred sixty-seven synagogues were destroyed. So many windows were smashed that next morning city streets were strewn with broken glass. Hundreds of people were killed, and thousands more injured.
The next morning, 30,000 men were rounded up, arrested and deported to concentration camps. Their crime: being Jewish.
Kristallnacht was always a bitter history lesson. Now it is a chilling, timely warning.
Perhaps David Glosser put it best. In a Nov. 2 CNN interview, Glosser harshly repudiated his own nephew, Stephen Miller, White House adviser and architect of Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign. Glosser pointed out that their family — his and Stephen’s — had fled European pogroms and would have perished under the Nazis if they had not been able to enter the U.S.
Glosser said of the refugees currently walking in a caravan through Central America: “They are just like our family. We needed to come here. We needed to find someplace to go, and those that couldn’t suffered the consequences.”
He added that Trump “is happy to condemn these people who are like our family, like my family.”