Sydney commemorates Kristallnacht

November 10, 2016 by Sophie Deutsch
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More than 300 members of the Sydney community have commemorated Kristallnacht  the ‘Night of the Broken Glass’, remembering the violence Nazis inflicted on Jewish people, their homes and synagogues, businesses and schools.


Joanna Kalowski

On November 9 to November 10, 1938, a wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms swept through Germany, annexed Austria and areas in Czechoslovakia.

At the Sydney Jewish Museum Joanna Kalowski solemnly recalled the experience of her mother, Rose Charlotte Ball, who watched her synagogue in Hanover burn into rubble. “November 9th was the worst night in our mother’s life. Of everything she experienced, this night was always with her”. The Romanesque synagogue in Hanover was the soul and heart of the city’s Jewish community before its destruction in 1938.

In this night of state-sponsored terror, nearly 100 Jews were murdered, and many more were arrested and deported to concentration camps.

Each year, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies holds a commemoration to remember Kristallnacht, a key turning point in the history of Nazi Germany. It signaled the commencement of the Holocaust atrocities, during which 6 million Jews would be murdered.

President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Jeremy Spinak, commented that, “Kristallnacht was the night when the indignities of racial purity laws and the vigilantism of the Nazi years could no long be viewed as a passing nightmare, but instead had to be seen as a mortal danger.”

Jeremy Spinak added: “Kristallnacht is commemorated because it also serves as a warning to the Jewish people – that broken glass does not signal the beginning of a persecution, but rather it is the result of a build-up of hate speech, racist laws and violent action.”

Dr Shimon Samuels

Dr Shimon Samuels

Speakers at the Kristallnacht commemoration spoke of the importance of remaining vigilant to intolerance, discrimination and hate speech, particularly as we have witnessed a resurgence in antisemitism. Keynote speaker, Dr Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, referred to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, when post-Holocaust antisemitism reared its ugly head. “The tiny Jewish Club in Durban was surrounded by demonstrators with the banners of Mein Kampf declaring Hitler was right, he didn’t finish the job”. Vandalism of Germany’s national Holocaust memorial, onto which swastikas were etched, was also shown at the Kristallnacht commemoration through a video presentation.

Dr Samuels raised concerns about the common occurrence of antisemitic discourse and the potential habituation effect. “Habituation to antisemitic discourse results in a numbing effect. That numbing effect leads to acceptance”.

With an appreciation of the horrors of the Holocaust, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies urges individuals to join their campaign to outlaw violent hate speech in NSW. If outlawed, a person who incites violence against an individual or group on the basis of their ethnic identity will be prosecuted.

“Because when the glass is broken it is too late to begin acting”, says Jeremy. “Stamp out the green shoots of hatred before they bloom into violence”.



One Response to “Sydney commemorates Kristallnacht”
  1. Ron Jontof-Hutter says:

    “Broken glass” is the euphemism used by Germans to describe a state sponsored pogrom where research indicates at least 200 Jews were murdered and 30 000 taken to concentration camps. Should we continue to call it “the night of broken glass” or more accurately,” the Reichs Pogrom Night?”

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