On the night of November 9, 1938 Storm Troopers leading wild mobs across Germany and later Austria struck at Jewish targets with unrivaled savagery. The windows of Jewish-owned stores were shattered and every one of the 7,500 Jewish businesses and shops that had escaped earlier “Aryanization” (confiscation) were ransacked. Jewish homes were assaulted and the residents brutally attacked. Cemeteries and schools were vandalized and 2,000 synagogues were put to the torch. Killing and maiming was rampant and over 30,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps where many were murdered; all were tortured.
It took over half a year to replace the glass that had been smashed, hence the name Kristallnacht - the night of broken glass. The Jewish community was fined one billion Reichsmarks for the bedlam; insurance payments of 25 million Reichsmarks that rightfully should have gone to their Jewish policy owners went to the state while Jewish store owners were compelled to repair the shops that had been expropriated.
The accurate translation of Kristallnacht is “Crystal Night,” and Field Marshal Hermann Goering, who had just been charged with implementing the Reich’s Jewish policy, intended to use this connotation to ridicule the victims. Like so many other Nazi perversions of language (Sonderbehandlung, “special treatment” referring to gassing victims; Euthanasie, for mass murder of retarded and physically handicapped patients) this term was meant to be a cynical appellation that would free the victims of any sympathy and reinterpret murder, arson, robbery and plunder into a glistening event marked by sparkle and gleam.
History books refer to Kristallnacht as the beginning of the Holocaust. This is akin to saying that the burning of the Reichstag is what was responsible for Hitler becoming Germany's unchallenged Fuhrer. Such oversimplification conveys an ignorance of history and aborts the chance for the proper lesson to be learned.
Nearly seven decades is adequate time to soberly reflect, and set the record straight. Auschwitz did not evolve from the Wannsee Conference, which did not evolve from The Nuremberg Laws, which did not evolve from Versailles humiliation.
The eventuality of the Holocaust was inescapable regardless of Kristallnacht. Once the dynamics of hatred were engaged, annihilation was inevitable. The Nazis sought a “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem” and they had the might, the determination and the requisite ruthlessness for its execution.
The Nazis attempted to portray Kristallnacht as a spontaneous eruption of German hatred for the Jews. Alas, nothing happens overnight; hatred festers, it doesn’t metastasize.
The Nazis assiduously educated their populace (drawing upon a copious history and tradition) regarding the supposed danger posed by the Jews. The outcome of this education was the greatest and most appalling genocide in history.
Over half-a-century later this is precisely what is so terrifying about the instruction conducted in the Palestinian Authority and the Hizbolla educational network. Hatred of the Jews is taught in schools and preached in the mosques. Cartoons and articles in newspapers routinely portray Jews in blatantly anti-Semitic terms, mirroring Der Sturmer.
All of the Arab media are harnessed toward this goal as if Dr. Joeseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, were orchestrating the campaign. Palestinian and Hizbolla Television broadcasts hatred and incitement daily, such as this weekly feature: “Mohammed said in his Hadith: The Day of Resurrection will not arrive until you fight the Jews, until a Jew will hide behind a tree and the plant will say, ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!’”
The message is that the murder of Jews is a religious obligation. Moslem clerics repeat this theme in their Friday sermons praising Shahada (suicide bombers cum martyrs). The continued glorification of Shahada is yet another cynical perversion of semantics to free the victims of any sympathy and reinterpret murder as admirable, heroic and the fulfillment of Islamic faith. This past summer Hizbolla demonstrated what it could do when it had the might, the determination and the requisite ruthlessness.
Hence the methodology employed by Palestinian and Hizbolla indoctrinators does not resonate with historical familiarity; it shouts from the housetops.
When Germany was losing on two fronts it removed troops from battle to assist in the murder of Jews. In July of 1944 Germany needed every rail car to begin its evacuation of Greece and send reinforcements to southern Russia. Yet not a single train was diverted from the extermination camp deportations. Unemployment is widespread in the Palestinian Authority and hunger is prevalent. Resources that could be used to alleviate the situation are diverted to the purchase of rockets that are fired upon innocent Israeli citizens.
Kritallnacht did not serve as a wake-up call 68 years ago to a world that was tolerant and uncomprehending of hatred; perhaps it will today. The message is crystal clear.