Do Not Stand Silent: Remembering Kristallnacht 1938
Days of Remembrance, April 27 - May 4, 2008
“If you saw a fanatical mob pillage and burn a church or synagogue you would not stand silent...”
— Thomas E. Dewey in The New York Times, November 12, 1938, p. 4.
The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust, just as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is our permanent living memorial to the victims. This year Holocaust Remembrance Day is Friday May 2, 2008. The Museum has designated "Do Not Stand Silent: Remembering Kristallnacht 1938" as the focus for the 2008 observance.
Many ordinary people looked on as Nazi mobs assaulted Jews and Jewish-owned property. Most disapproved but took no action. Some, especially young men, were drawn to the wanton violence and plunder and joined in the destruction. Some few individuals attempted to provide aid and support to the victims of the riots. Their actions illustrated the limits of Nazi antisemitic propaganda and were a reminder of the many opportunities for individuals to show compassion and concern, without necessarily endangering themselves or their families.
One of the most striking actions on Kristallnacht was that taken by police Lieutenant Wilhelm Krützfeld, the commander of a police precinct in Berlin. In the early hours of November 10, 1938, Nazi hooligans prepared to set the Oranienburger Strasse synagogue on fire. Lieutenant Krützfeld rushed to the scene and ordered the mob away. He explained that the synagogue had been a protected historical landmark for decades and, drawing his pistol, that he would uphold the law requiring its protection. Krützfeld ordered the fire brigade to stand guard to ensure the integrity of the synagogue. Additionally, in at least three German villages (Warmsried, Derching, and Laimering) civic leaders and local clergy acted to stop the riots against Jews in those villages. In Leipzig, sacred Torah scrolls were saved from destruction and desecration when an anonymous phone call warned the community of the impending violence. Long thought lost, the scrolls were discovered in 1998 hidden in the roof of the library at the University of Leipzig.
During the pogrom and its aftermath, some sympathetic officials quietly informed Jewish friends that their names appeared on lists for arrest. Jewish men across Germany sought desperately to hide. Some ordinary Germans and Jews holding non-German passports (who were exempt from the police action) offered them sanctuary and assistance. Ephraim Handler, the leader of the Jewish community in Magdeburg, for example, escaped arrest. With the help of friends, he was able to book passage on the train to Berlin and back, thereby avoiding arrest. Famed German boxer Max Schmeling hid the two teenage sons of his Jewish friend, David Lewin, in his rooms at the Excelsior Hotel in Berlin. Other Germans made clear their disapproval of the pogroms. Father Bernhard Lichtenberg, a Catholic priest at St Hedwig's Cathedral in Berlin, closed each evening service after Kristallnacht with public prayers for Jews and those held in concentration camps.
Taken from the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.
Right now there is a genocide in Darfur. Once you've heard about it, can you really stand silent? I'm fasting for Darfur right now, and sending the money to Gabriel.