When I was younger, I commemorated Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” each year. I attended programs at my family’s synagogue and later at my college Hillel to observe the night Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses, murdered close to 100 Jews, and rounded up tens of thousands. This year, the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht passed and I only later realized that I had missed it. My new synagogue didn’t have a program. My Facebook feed, where I get most of my news these days, was virtually silent.
And yet, anti-Semitism is on the rise, both in the United States and around the world. We recently commemorated the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack against Jews on US soil. Luckily, anti-Semitic incidents, even ones as deadly as these, are not on the massive scale or at the level of organization as the progroms of Kristallnacht. Still, I worry that we are failing to heed the “Never Forget” messaging which is often associated with the Holocaust.
When I Googled Kristallnacht, I found stories connecting Kristallnacht with tragedies occurring against other groups around the world. Is the Jewish community using the lessons we have learned about the Holocaust to not only educate ourselves but to help the world strive to prevent future atrocities? Is Kristallnacht fading in importance because we are not learning its lessons or because it has ingrained in the social action and advocacy that the Jewish community is involved in (and in many cases leading the way)? I, for one, hope it is the latter.