Today, Tuesday, November 9th, marks the 72nd anniversary of 'Kristallnacht', the Night of Broken Glass, which is widely considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust, the first step in the planned extermination of the Jewish people leading to the eventual murder of six million in the Nazi programme of genocide. On the night of November 9/10th, 1938, gangs of Nazi youth, with the unofficial but clear encouragement of Nazi leaders in a carefully orchestrated outbreak of government sponsored violence, committed attrocities in Jewish neighbourhoods throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenlands of Czechoslovakia. They smashed Jewish storefronts and homes, destroyed and burned over 1,600 synagogues, and vandalized over 175,000 Jewish stores and businesses. Close to 2,500 Jews were killed, and 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps. This nationwide anti-Jewish pogrom took place during peacetime across the entire territory of the Third Reich.
Instigated by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, this murderous onslaught against German Jewry, cynically described as the "Night of Broken Glass", was a major turning point on the road to the "Final solution" of the so-called "Jewish question." It signified that the Nazi regime had crossed a Rubicon and would no longer be deterred by Western public opinion in its "War against the Jews."
The economic expropriation of German Jewry, its complete social ostracism and public humiliation swiftly followed. Jews were banned from public transport, from frequenting concerts, theatres, cinemas, commercial centres or beaches, from using public benches. Only a fortnight after "Crystal Night," the SS journal, Das Schwarze Korps, chillingly prophesied the final end of German Jewry through "Fire and sword" and its imminent complete annihilation. For that reason it is certainly proper to commemorate this harbinger of horror, the infamous date that marks the onset of this spiral of unimaginable hatred unloosed among a supposedly civilized people. What is unfathomable to me, though, is the name by which this commemoration continues to be known.
Tonight, Jewish communities throughout the world will again gather to recall Kristallnacht ~ and will unwittingly allow themselves, in some measure, to verbally embrace the very heresy that abetted the Holocaust. 'Kristallnacht' ..... 'Crystal Night' .... conjures mental pictures of something pleasant. Like the effect of the Cool Crystal Clear Waters of a lake on a Summer's day, perhaps. I have Crystal's hanging in my bedroom window. They are beautiful, reflecting the light & magically producing Rainbows, a thing of beauty, a joy to possess. Kristallnacht does not come close to being any of those things. Only the anti-semitism shines clear as crystal.
|It took 6 months to manufacture new glass so much was broken|
And 72 years after the horrible events of 1938 should have given us by now sufficient perspective to expose the lie of a horrible term that is designed to deceive, to promote something that is it quite clearly not .... a deceptively descriptive term that epitomizes the key to the most powerful methodology for murder perfected by the Nazis. How, after all, were the Nazis able to commit their crimes under the veneer of civilized respectability? Upon analysis, the answer is obvious. They glorified the principle of murder by euphemism.
Let's look at the language of the Nazi perpetrators .... Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment") was the way to describe gassing victims. Euthanasia was the "polite" way to speak of the mass murder of retarded or physically handicapped patients. Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work Makes you Free") were the words that greeted new arrivals at the entrance to the death camp of Auschwitz. When the Nazis launched their plan to annihilate the remaining Jews in Poland in the autumn of 1943, they called it "Erntefest" or Harvest Festival! And perhaps most cynical of all was the use of the term, "Endloesung der Judenfrage" ~ in English "The Final Solution" ~ to express the concept for which civilized language as yet had no term. (The word ‘genocide' was introduced in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, who had escaped from German-occupied Poland to the US.)
Euphemisms, as Quentin Crisp so brilliantly put it, are "unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne." On the simplest level the name Kristallnacht suggests that the only terrible thing that happened was breakage of a tremendous amount of glass that would have to be replaced ~ a financial loss caused by wasteful vandalism that the government subsequently dealt with by taxing the Jewish community to pay for the damages inflicted upon them.
|30,000 Jewish Men Marched to Camps ~ Kristallnacht 1938|
Kristallnacht was the German euphemism for a time of sanctioned killing. The word takes into account only the loss of 'Crystal', not humans, and is one reason why its continued usage is so appalling to me. I'm a lover of language, the beauties of it's usage, the correct application of it's grammar & perhaps that is why this is so abhorrent to me. We need to reclaim that beauty from the Nazis & not allow further horror to be wrought from the holocaust.
But there is much more than even that .....
Dr. Walter H. Pehle, a historian specializing in modern Germany, has already pointed out that Kristallnacht's original intent was cynically propagandizing the violence into something metaphorically holding "sparkle and gleam" for Germany & the Globe. It is that very connection that played no small role in Goebbel's choice of descriptive for a moment that the German Minister of Propaganda wanted to immortalize as a sparkling and glowing portend of a future rid of its "Jewish parasites."
Why then would we choose to identify the night of initial mass murders with a word that not only ignores everything other than broken glass, but in fact glorifies its results as gifts of crystal clear light to the distorted truths of Nazi ideology?
To remember Kristallnacht properly we must first renounce its German-given name.
We must proclaim that we commemorate not broken windows but shattered lives.
We must pledge never again to allow evil to enter our lives disguised as the good and the noble.
We must declare that no euphemisms will ever again be permitted to cloak the horrors they intend to conceal.
Today, shocking to relate, the spectre of such apocalyptic anti-Semitism has returned to haunt Europe and other continents, while assuming radically new forms. In the Middle East, it has taken on a particularly dangerous, toxic and potentially genocidal aura of hatred, closely linked to the "mission" of holy war or "jihad" against the Jews. There is nothing 'holy' about Jihad!!!
Islamist anti-Semitism is thoroughly soaked in many of the most inflammatory themes that initially made possible the attrocities of "Crystal Night" and its horrific aftermath during the Holocaust. To the grotesque inventions of the Nazi era one must add such up-to-date libels as Holocaust denial, which has become a state-sponsored project in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran and is increasingly pervasive in Europe & the Arab world. Equally fashionable (and increasingly popular in Europe) is the slanderous identification of Israel with Nazism or the "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinians. This modernized version of inverted anti-Semitism which sails under the mask of "anti-Zionism" is today a global phenomenon, but it has special resonance in the Middle East as a result of the fraudulent "Palestinian question."
Horrifyingly, 'Kristallnacht' or indeed the Holocaust that followed has not dented or neutralized the scourge of anti-Semitism one iota. In a sinister and sometimes devious manner, the widespread defamation and demonization of Israel has, in effect, revived fantasies of completing the murderous work of the Third Reich. We need to recognise these libels of language for what they really are. We need to stop masking the murderous intent behind seemingly "innocent" terminology. Are we at all capable of learning from history?? This may well be a decisive factor in determining the future when the Jewish people once again have to stand alone in the face of concrete threats to annihilate it. Let's no longer Stand in the Shadow of the Shoah.