Sign In Forgot Password

Rabbinic Reflections - Parshat Vayera                      November 16, 2019 - 18 Cheshvan 5780

11/14/2019 03:56:57 PM


Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews carried out by SA paramilitary forces and civilians throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on without intervening.  The name Kristallnacht ("Crystal Night") comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.


Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were ransacked as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.  The rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed, and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.  British historian Martin Gilbert wrote that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from foreign journalists working in Germany sent shockwaves around the world.  The Times of London observed on 11 November 1938: "No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday."


The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the Nazi German diplomat Ernst von Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris. Estimates of fatalities caused by the attacks have varied. Early reports estimated that 91 Jews had been murdered. Modern analysis of German scholarly sources puts the figure much higher; when deaths from post-arrest maltreatment and subsequent suicides are included, the death toll climbs into the hundreds, with Richard J.  Evans estimating 638 suicide deaths.  Historians view Kristallnacht as a prelude to the Final Solution and the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust.

With anti-Semitism on the rise throughout the world and even here in Toronto and the rest of Canada, as well as the increasing xenophobia and dehumanizing of the “other” we see and read about in the news, we must be ever-vigilant, speak out and work against such hatred to prevent another Holocaust or genocide from happening again.  The message of the Holocaust is not for Jews alone, but for all people who care about the dignity and humanity of all people.  We cannot ostracize others simply because they have different cultures, ethnicities or religions.  We are all created in the image of God and all worthy of unconditional positive regard and respect.  This is a message sorely needed in our increasingly violent world.  Eli Wiesel, the human rights advocate, Nobel Peace Prize Laurate and Holocaust survivor, said: “In the face of evil, there are no innocent bystanders.”  We cannot sit on the sidelines when hate rears its ugly head.  We must take a stand and be part of the solution to create a better, more peaceful and loving world.


Shabbat Shalom!

Wed, August 12 2020 22 Av 5780