On this solemn anniversary of Kristallnacht I have heard shouts from my fellow Jews on the right side of the aisle calling for those on the left side of the aisle to condemn the anti-Semites of today. Although I am prepared to do that, I also must make the point that condemning the evil of today is not a prerequisite to mourning those taken from us by the evil of the past. That is why my first priority is to honor and remember as best I can.
Many years back in trying to relate to another my understanding of the Holocaust, I suggested the following exercise. Close your eyes and imagine almost everyone you know, are friendly with, or love. Then imagine them not only all gone, but brutally murdered. Now open your eyes and realize that this is what it was like for most people who survived The Holocaust. Almost everyone and everything they knew was gone, and all they were left with was the hope that God, if they still believed in God’s existence, would give them the strength they needed to move forward.
However, as if that horror alone was not enough, the Nazis, masters of terror, were so sadistic and obsessed with their hatred towards the Jews that they felt their first priority was instilling maximum fear in the Jewish population and destroying Jewish businesses and houses of worship. On what we would forever know as Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass”, they proudly and brazenly burned synagogues and businesses to the ground and killed close to 100 Jews. The following day they arrested 30,000 Jewish men. The Nazi brutality knew no limits and the suffering they caused the Jewish people is unlike anything seen in human history. The significance of Kristallnacht, beyond the pure destruction and murder, is that is symbolizes the beginning of this horrible time, and must be seen as a day to honor, respect and mourn the 6 million Jewish lives murdered.
It is also however a sad lesson of the ability that evil has to consume an entire society, how anti-Antisemitism and persecution of the Jewish people is nothing new and is a real danger not ever to be taken lightly. I do condemn the Louis Farrakhans, David Dukes and Linda Sarsours of the world whether or not their anti-Semitism is unhidden and blatant like Farrakhan’s or more devious and masked like Sarsour’s. But I do not, and I say this unequivocally, condemn my fellow Jews who may not see things exactly as I do, nor do I use this day as a reason to condemn Donald Trump or far left wing radicals. And here is why.
Do you think that when the Nazis went on their rampage through Germany on November 9, 1938 they first asked Jews their political viewpoints? Do you think if anyone of us would have been crammed into a bunk, starving, exposed to disease and most likely marked for the gas chamber in Auschwitz that it would have mattered whether you were a politically conservative or liberal Jew? We all know the answer. Yes those that rose up and fought in the Warsaw Ghetto were a special kind of hero, but those who hoped it would get better or didn’t want to believe the worst did not merit scorn, they needed guidance and protection, and ultimately our prayers. Fighting our fellow Jew takes away from the real fight at hand and plays right into the hands of our enemies.
It is also a time to step back and understand that Kristallnacht, as bad as it was, was nothing compared to what was to follow. In retrospect the Jewish people would have given anything for it to have stopped there. Now understand that nothing being done in the United States of America comes close to even comparing to Kristallnacht. That is not to say that anti-Semitism is not a problem, it is, but even the worst of actions against American Jews today are not actions taken by any formal institution of any significance. So to compare Donald Trump or left wing extremists, to Nazis is a disrespectful and irresponsible comparison. To pay close attention and condemn the Farrakhans, Dukes and Sarsours of the world, individuals who directly or indirectly call for the death and destruction of the State of Israel and or the Jewish people is not only responsible, it is necessary.
On this very sad and important anniversary, let us all remember and honor the Jewish martyrs murdered by the Nazis, and use their memory for good to do what is needed to unite and protect us all moving forward.
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