83 years after Kristallnacht, anti-Semitism is on the rise again

Across the Western world, Jews are experiencing a resurgence of anti-Semitism. Synagogue doors are being reinforced, Jewish businesses are being attacked, Jewish monuments have been defaced. People are careful not to wear anything that might identify them as Jews, and those who do are in danger of verbal or even physical attack. It is happening all over Europe and in the United States.

Members of Antifa, the supposedly anti-fascist organization, are known to support the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. And in Germany, where anti-Semitism was suppressed after the defeat of the Nazi regime, it rears its ugly head again without shame.

In its recent government election, the AfD (Alternative for Germany) Party won 10.3% of the vote. It is a right-wing populist and nationalist political party that opposes the European Union and immigration. It is on the political spectrum further to the right. At a recent AfD party congress, there was consensus about his dislike of Islam. They agreed to include the phrase “Islam does not belong to Germany” in their manifesto. Those sentiments can easily extend to anti-Semitism.

Citing an article in The Atlantic:

“By claiming a piece, however small, of Germany’s political real estate, the AfD has forced the country’s main parties to expand their stores and, in some cases, even normalize far-right positions.

“It has also forced them to consider more cumbersome coalitions that not long ago might have been unthinkable, complicating the mathematics of forming a government in a country where a single party rarely wins the full majority.”

Only time will tell in which direction a new Social Democratic Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, will lead his country.

This week, Jews around the world commemorate the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass,” named after the windows of Jewish businesses and homes that were smashed during the night of November 9-10. 1938. Most of the synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the annexed Czechoslovak Sudetenland were looted and burned that night. Thousands of Jewish businesses were damaged and 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps.

The trigger for Kristallnacht can be found in March 1938, after the annexation of Austria to the German Reich.

The Polish authorities were concerned about the increase in persecution of Jews in those countries. But it was not their welfare that interested them, but rather their fear that the many Polish citizens among the Jews wanted to return to Poland or would be forced to do so. Then, in October of that year, the Polish government passed a denationalization law that annulled the citizenship of Poles living abroad for more than five years, unless they received a special stamp in their passports from Polish consulates before End of the month. Not surprisingly, Jews were denied this facility.

As German policy was not yet mass extermination but rather to get Jews out of Germany, the Nazi regime was concerned that Polish officials would not stamp the passports of Jews, thus rendering them stateless. Because without a passport they would have to remain in Germany, SS chief Himmler ordered that all Polish Jews be deported immediately and by force to Poland.

It was during the early hours of October 28 that Polish Jews had to respond to the dreaded knock on the door signifying terror. Nearly 20,000 Jewish men, women and children were arrested, allowed to hastily pack a single suitcase, and, with an allowance of just 10 marks, were transported to the Polish border in sealed trains. When the Poles realized this, they closed the border. “Non-Jews” was the order.

International March of the Living to commemorate Kristallnacht (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI)

With Polish bayonets in front of them and German machine guns behind them, these Jews were stranded helplessly in no-man’s-land. The Jewish welfare organization ORT was allowed to hastily erect some shelter, while the Poles and Germans argued for three days. Conditions for these Jews were dire and food was scarce. Eventually the Poles were forced to accept this increasingly despondent, hungry and tired mass.

The largest number took place in Zbaszyn, a Polish border town. My father was among them. For months they slept in poorly built sheds and stables, with very few supplies. The severity of the conditions was witnessed by the Polish historian Emanuel Ringelblum, who described the hopelessness of the deportees in a letter to a colleague: “I don’t think any Jewish community has ever experienced such a cruel and ruthless expulsion. The future looms in desperate terms. Jews have been humiliated to the level of lepers, fourth-class citizens, and as a result, we are all affected by this terrible tragedy. “

Some months later, most were transported to Warsaw.

At the time, he was in a Jewish school in a city about 70 km away. north of my hometown. The categories of arrest were determined by the local Nazi chief, so my mother was saved that day. Fortunately, he survived the concentration camps and was able to relate the events to me.

When asked where he was, he said that he had gone out and did not know where he was. If I had been at home, I too would have suffered the same fate and would not be here to tell the story.

Among the deportees was the Grynszpan family from Hannover. His 17-year-old son, Hershel, was living illegally in Paris. His sister, Berta, was able to send him a postcard from Zbaszyn, detailing the cruelty and tragedy of the family’s forced relocation. Enraged and distraught over the plight of his family and the thousands of other Polish Jews, Hershel Grynszpan went to the German embassy in Paris asking to see the ambassador. He was brought before Third Secretary Ernst vom Rath, and as he faced him, Hershel drew a pistol and shot him. Vom Rath died of his injuries on November 7.

That was the trigger for the “spontaneous” events of Kristallnacht two nights later.

It is documented that the plans for this crime had already been drawn up by Himmler in great detail and communicated to all Nazi offices in the country, and that he was only waiting for a suitable occasion to implement it.

On that fateful morning of November 10, even before I arrived at my school, which was on the premises of a synagogue, smoke hung in the air and there was more activity than usual in the streets. Then I saw it all. The fire service was present, not to put out the flames that engulfed the synagogue, but to cool and protect neighboring German property from damage.

That same day I left the city of Mannheim to return home. The day is so vividly etched in my memory that I clearly remember taking the 3:22 pm diesel train. Ask me what I had for lunch yesterday and I’d have a hard time remembering.

Another fact worth mentioning. After the synagogue fires in my hometown, some remaining walls of one of the synagogues posed a danger to the public and, to add insult to injury, the Jewish community was “asked” to pay for the demolition.

When the French police arrested Hershel Grynszpan, he protested: “Being Jewish is not a crime; I am not a dog; I have the right to exist on this earth; wherever I was, they chased me like an animal. “

There are conflicting reports on his fate, but it can be safely assumed that he did not survive the war. Let us never forget the brave Hershel Grynszpan and the events that happened to our people.

The nearly 98-year-old writer holds two Guinness records as the world’s oldest working journalist and the oldest radio talk show host. Presents Walter’s World on Israel National Radio (Arutz7) and The Walter Bingham File on Israel Newstalk Radio. Both are in English.


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