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November 2, 2011
Remember We Must
There are several times a year when the calendar cries out for a pause to remember the Holocaust. Yom Hashoah in the spring is clearly one of those times. The Nov. 9-10 anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when the burning of synagogues and destruction of Jewish property in Germany and Austria foreshadowed what was in store for European Jewry, is another.
The assault against the Jews was widely reported, unlike much of the ensuing horrors inflicted by the Nazis. On Nov. 11, 1938, a front-page headline of The New York Times told of destruction in Vienna and Berlin: "Nazis Smash, Loot and Burn Jewish Shops And Temples Until Goebbels Calls Halt."
According to the archives of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, alone in its dogged coverage through most of that era, its initial dispatch focused largely on the violence in Berlin:
"An estimated 25,000 Jews were under arrest today in the wake of the worst outbreak of anti-Jewish violence in modern German history, which left throughout the nation a trail of burned synagogues, smashed homes, wrecked and pillaged shops, and at least four known dead. Police seizures of Jews continued throughout the night and this morning. Three thousand were in custody in Berlin alone."
This violent pogrom turned out to be mild compared with the "Final Solution" that Hitler had planned for the Jews. But it served as a critical wake-up call to those German Jews who had not yet been able or willing to see the writing on the wall.
But remembering, as important as that is to our collective psyche, is not enough. We must continue to educate our children and those beyond our community about what can happen when we are not vigilant: when hate triumphs over tolerance, when ignorance trumps understanding and when brainwashing prevails over rational thinking.
The good news is that opportunities to learn abound in our area. Lectures, seminars and books are widely publicized. This week alone, for example, a consortium of Holocaust educators is presenting an afternoon of learning at Gratz College on Sunday with a focus on "Resistance and Resilience"; several synagogues are featuring survivors at upcoming Veterans Day programs; and even the local theater scene has Holocaust-related shows currently on stage, including The Diary of Anne Frank at the Prince Music Theater and Our Class at the Wilma.
It is easy to feel oversaturated with the Holocaust. How many of us occasionally wonder: Can I really watch one more Shoah-related movie or documentary? Must I read one more Holocaust-themed novel? Can I sit through one more survivor's story?
As long as hate and intolerance -- and yes, anti-Semitism, too -- fill our world, the answer is: Yes, we must. The lessons are not yet over.