Kristallnacht: the light turned off 83 years ago still burns brightly

Thousands of places of worship and public institutions around the world were illuminated this week to commemorate the observance of Kristallnacht.

“Synagogues were burned in Kristallnacht, and the world stood still and was silent,” says Shmuel Rosenman, president of the March of the Living.

On November 9, 1938, the Nazis burned 1,400 synagogues and Jewish institutions in Germany and Austria in the Kristallnacht pogrom, a two-day massacre in which dozens of Jews were killed. Kristallnacht greenlighted additional anti-Semitic events that eventually led to the Holocaust.

On November 9, 2021, under the auspices of the March of the Living, the world lit lights in synagogues, churches, mosques and public institutions as part of a global initiative called “Let there be light” to mark Kristallnacht and as a symbol of unity and hope.

Thessaloniki, Paris, Budapest, Warsaw and the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were just some of the places that were illuminated as part of the initiative that includes thousands of places of worship, public institutions and private homes around the world that left a lit light, as a symbol of mutual responsibility and a joint war against anti-Semitism, racism and hatred. In addition, as part of the event, the prayers of public leaders and Holocaust survivors from around the world were projected on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and in public buildings and places of worship in Europe.

CAROL SELIG-KINDERMAN celebrates her 97th birthday with her 17 great-grandchildren. (credit: NETANEL FENICHEL)

“One only has to look at what is happening around the world these days to understand that there is total ignorance about what happened to the Jewish people during the Holocaust,” says Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, who serves as president of the March of the living. organization. “Our initiative grew out of the need to remind people that it could happen again if we keep our eyes open. Kristallnacht took place a year and a half before the outbreak of World War II and served as a green light to attack Jews in the streets. The process of exterminating the Jewish people began first with the small things and then gained momentum.

Rosenman adds that the world is going backwards when it comes to dealing with anti-Semitism. “There is an acceleration of anti-Semitism and, at the same time, there is no broadening of the issue of education about the Holocaust, which is one of the main tools to understand what happened then and how to prevent it again.”

Carol (Mannheimer) Selig-Kinderman, 97, was born in Worms, Germany. He was 14 years old on the morning of November 9. On the way to school, he witnessed the fire in the Mainz synagogue and realized that something unusual was happening. He returned home with his cousin to their home in Oppenheim. A few hours later, the police arrested his 16-year-old brother and father, and at noon, the SS stormed his house, destroying everything.

“They cut down all the sofas and beds, they took down all the cabinets, the mirrors. They cut the legs off our dining table. Because our windows were smashed, we were also very cold. Later, through the broken windows, I heard the SS marching under our house and debating whether they should set it on fire. Eventually, they realized that we were living next door to a high-ranking Nazi, so they decided not to.

“My parents owned a winery and they had special sets of wine glasses of all sizes, 144 glasses in all. They crushed them all. “

A couple of hours later, a different group of 10 SS officers arrived, took Carol’s mother to the cellar, and forced her to empty all of her wine barrels. “They destroyed my parents’ business.”

Speaking about the fate of his family, Selig-Kinderman says that the family survived the pogroms, but his brother was later killed and his parents were sent to Theresienstadt for three years and survived. Selig-Kinderman registered for the kindertransport to Switzerland, and thus survived. “Besides myself, I searched seven other Jewish children from Oppenheim. Unfortunately, most of the parents refused to send their children (some were cousins ​​of mine) and sent them to Auschwitz ”.

Today, Selig-Kinderman lives in Tekoa and says she has been blessed with two daughters, eight grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren, all living in Israel. When asked about the most important message he would like to convey to the next generation, he responds: “The Jewish nation has gone through so many pogroms throughout its history. We are still here because of our Torah and our traditions that kept us together for all those years. “

The March of the Living organization’s decision to carry out the “Let there be light” initiative arose from the need to educate and above all to warn. “Rather than celebrate the March of the Living on Nissan just 27, we decided it was important to implement a wide range of activities throughout the year that address education and raise all red flags, because on the surface nothing changes.” Rosenman adds. “The synagogues were burned, and the world stood aside and was silent. It was not just the burning of a building, it was the burning of its essence: religion and education. “

Rosenman explains that the purpose of the “Let There Be Light” initiative is to turn on lights not only in synagogues, but also in mosques and churches around the world to create a sense of unity, and declare that together we must light the miracle of rebellion. .

“We believe that a small amount of light has the power to fight darkness, and that is the message we want to convey to millions of people around the world. Kristallnacht was a signal to Hitler that he could harm the Jews without hindrance. If the world had intervened, perhaps the Holocaust would never have happened.

“Education about the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism are intertwined, and the March of the Living organization will continue to work to ensure that ‘Never means never.’

Translated by Alan Rosenbaum.

This article was written in cooperation with the March of the Living.

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