Next week, we will commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht -- The Night of Broken Glass. Let me share the story of my friend, Eva, who is an eyewitness to this horrific event.
Eva was born in 1922 in the German city of Leipzig, where her father was a prominent physician. As a young schoolgirl, Eva felt the direct impact of the Nuremburg Laws of 1935. She was removed from the public school which she had attended and put into a special school for Jewish children, who were not allowed to attend class with "Aryan" children. Although she made new friends, she was allowed no contact with her old school mates. Into her teens, new connections were made through Jewish youth organizations, which were her only outlet.
But on Nov. 9, 1938, Eva's world turned upside down. That night, "spontaneous" mobs ran through the streets, breaking the windows of Jewish-owned businesses and torching the great synagogue buildings that had been constructed in the 19th century. Private residences also were attacked, and homes ransacked. For some reason, that "spontaneous" mob action decided not to attack the home of Eva's family and to spare the respected doctor.
Eva recounted the surreal scene, as she and her parents and brother huddled in their apartment. Across the way, whole sofas and dining tables and beds and dressers were being hurled out of upper story windows, as Jewish-owned apartments were singled out. Eighty years later, Eva still can recall the sensation of opening her mouth to scream -- and nothing came out! Her father was arrested the next day along with many other Jewish men, but again, his position saved him from being deported to those initial "work camps." He eventually was able to return home. Soon after, the family emigrated to America.
In a few weeks, my friend Eva -- who is now 96, and in spite of near blindness from macular degeneration -- will be traveling with her granddaughter to Leipzig as a guest of the municipality for a commemoration of that night 80 years ago. They will attend a number of planned events by the city, along with very few of her remaining contemporaries who witnessed that terrible night.
One of the events will be in a large plaza in the middle of the city. Eva will be addressing the crowd. That plaza was not always there. Prior to that night in November 1938, the space of the now-plaza was where the Great Synagogue of Leipzig stood -- the very same synagogue where Eva's grandfather presided over worshipers of a now-vanished community.
Eva has returned to Leipzig on a number of occasions. Always she is challenged by family and friends: "How can you go back to that horrific place?" Eva's answer is always the same: "I go back to remind them that I am still here, that we Jews are still here."
The people and the government of Leipzig and the Federal Republic of Germany sponsor these events. Although they are never titled as such, it is clear, that through their actions, they are seeking forgiveness and reparation for the crimes visited on the Jewish people in the name of Germany.
And now, just 80 years later, 11 Jews were murdered, simply because they went to pray in synagogue. They were killed, simply because they were Jews. Our Jewish community is still in shock. Vigils and services of remembrance have and will be held. We are strengthened from the many messages of support and comfort we have received from other faith communities.
Just as Eva's family did, we will continue to stand strong as a people. And in our current sorrow, we all must resolve to speak out and act against hate and bigotry, no matter to whom or where it might occur.
NAN Religion on 11/03/2018
Print Headline: Jews stand strong