Monday, November 10, 2014

Kristallnacht: then and now

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, a wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms spread across Germany and German-controlled portions of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Instigated primarily by Nazi officials, it left such a path of destruction it became known as, ‘kristallnacht’, a word that translates as ‘night of shattered glass’. The name refers to the shards of shattered glass that lined German streets in the wake of the pogrom—broken glass from the windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence (“Kristallnacht: A Nationwide Pogrom, November 9–10, 1938”, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, The US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM): the historical backround described here comes from this USHMM site).

At the time (1938), German officials said that Kristallnacht had erupted as a spontaneous outburst of public sentiment in response to the murder of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official stationed in Paris. Vom Rath died on November 9. But the attacks were far from spontaneous. Historians have found a paper-trail that links the attacks to orders from Nazi officials (ibid).

Nazi rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. Many synagogues burned throughout the night, in full view of the public and of local firefighters, who had received orders to intervene only to prevent flames from spreading to nearby buildings. Nazi and Hitler Youth members shattered shop windows of an estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned commercial establishments, and looted their wares.

In Berlin and Vienna, mobs of Nazis roamed the streets. They attacked Jews in their houses and forced Jews they encountered to perform acts of public humiliation. Although murder did not figure in the central directives, Kristallnacht claimed the lives of at least 91 Jews between 9 and 10 November. Police records of the period document a high number of rapes and suicides in the aftermath of the violence (ibid).

Today, November 10, 2014, Jews all across Israel have seen a number of serious Arab attacks. A 20-year old soldier was murdered in Tel Aviv. A 25-year old woman was murdered in the Gush (south of Jerusalem). Two others were stabbed in the Gush incident. Cars driven by Jews in Israel were randomly stoned or firebombed. Homes in Jerusalem were stoned.

These attacks don’t compare to the destruction and horror of that night in Europe 76 years ago. But these attacks share three things with that Kristallnacht.

First, both the Nazi and Arab attacks were sparked by the death of a Jew-hater. In Nazi Germany, the trigger-point for the violence was the murder of a Nazi bureaucrat by an angry and, possibly, crazed Jewish teenager. In Israel, the trigger-point was the death of a crazed Arab youth (age 22-25, depending on which reports you read). Given what this young man did, ‘crazed’ seems to be an appropriate description: he attacked what looked (in a video) like a very large GMC Savanna Police truck. He attacked the vehicle with a knife. He stood, hitting the vehicle passenger window repeatedly, and shouting. His behaviour was aggressive. In the end, police from the vehicle shot and killed him.

The Nazi whose death sparked the attacks had died on November 9, 1938. In Israel, the crazed Arab died on November 8, 2014.

The second common point shared by these two events was the attacks that followed. In both Nazi Germany and Israel, attacks against Jews occurred throughout a relatively wide region, not just one or two cities. Both sets of attacks were described by officials as ‘spontaneous’.

The third common point shared by both these events is Jew-hate. The Nazi Jew-hate that provoked and fuelled the German attacks has been well-documented. If you want a refresher course, you can go to the website of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, or to the Yad Vashem website.

What you might not realize is the extent to which Arab Jew-hate feeds off of Nazi propaganda. Do a google-search for, ‘Arab Jew-hate and Nazi propaganda’. You’ll see how similar Nazi Jew-hate is to Arab Jew-hate.    

In fact, Nazi Jew-hate never died. It was handed down to Arabs. It has underpinned every Arab leader in this region since before World War Two: Hal Amin el-Husseini, Yassar Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.

Haj Amin el-Husseini was a violent Jew-hater who had served 15 years as Grand Mufti (Muslim religious leader)of Jerusalem. He fled Jewish Palestine in 1937 to avoid imprisonment for violence against Jews. During World War Two, he pleaded with Hitler to bring the Nazi Jew-killing machinery to Jewish Palestine. Some called him the ‘Fuhrer of the Arabic world’ (Palestine Facts). He mentored Yassar Arafat (ibid) who, in turn, mentored Mahmoud Abbas.

We remember Nazi Germany’s Kristallnacht to recall—in part--what vicious Jew-hate looks like. We note today’s attacks in Israel to remind ourselves that Nazi-style Jew-hate never disappeared.

Arabs claim they want freedom and justice. Freedom and justice are never linked to Jew-hate. Jew-hate isn’t about freedom or justice; it’s about murder (“Fatah Facebook praises alleged stabbing of a ‘Zionist security guard’”, Palestinian Media Watch, November 5, 2014).

It’s about hate (“Islam-based hate speech on PA TV: Jews are ‘most evil among creations’, ‘barbaric apes, wretched pigs’, Palestinian Media Watch, September 12, 2014).

It’s about extermination (“Hamas imam to Jews: ’We will totally exterminate you’”, Jihadwatch, July 30, 2014).

Kristallnacht. It’s as ugly today as it was 76 years ago.


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