1938-2013: Marking 75 years since Kristallnacht

1938-2013: Marking 75 years since  Kristallnacht

by Shiela Steinman Wallace, Editor

It all started on November 9, 1938. Two days earlier Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, shot Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris. When he died, the leadership of the Nazi Party had the pretext they were waiting for. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels announced, “the Führer has decided that … demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the Party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered.”

Goebbel’s declaration lit the fuse and from late that evening through the next morning, “spontaneous” rioters attacked. Windows were shattered and flames from synagogues and other Jewish buildings licked the skies.

Throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland, 267 synagogues were destroyed. Windows of approximately 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were shattered and their wares were looted. At least 91 Jews were killed and there were many rapes. Up to 30,000 Jewish males were arrested, and most were transferred to Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and other concentration camps where they were detained.

It was Kristallnacht. The night of the broken glass. The Holocaust had begun.

Now, 75 years later, the Jewish Community Relations Council invites the Louisville community to a solemn commemoration of Kristallnacht on Sunday, November 10, at 7 p.m. at Congregation Adath Jeshurun.

Through personal accounts from survivors and selected songs and readings, we will remember as a community. “Our goals,” Cantor David Lipp, Kristallnacht program chair, said, “are to educate people about how and why Kristallnacht happened. Those survivors who are still with us will share their stories, and the stories of those who have passed away will be shared by their descendants.”

Among the speakers that night will be Hans Bensinger; Fred Gross; Rachel Klein, granddaughter of Elias Klein; Monica Meyer, granddaughter of Ilse and Mike Meyer; Dan Streit; Carl Bensinger; Ann Dorzbach; and one of Fred Whittaker’s students who will present a teaching from Ernie Marx. Rabbis and cantors from all five congregations as well as the Concert Choir from Ballard High School will also participate in the program.

Information about the history of Kristallnacht came from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s web site.

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