Holocaust victims to be remembered

The victims of the Holocaust, six million Jews and millions of other victims of Nazi tyranny will be remembered on Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. at Temple Beth El in Dunkirk. The public is invited to attend this interfaith service.

The event was scheduled in late October because of its proximity to the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and to Veterans Day.

The most recent interfaith Holocaust remembrance in the county was held in April 2007. It was the last of 24 annual services organized by the Interfaith Holocaust Com-memoration Committee of Chautauqua County.

The committee continues to sponsor Holocaust education in area schools, bringing a survivor to visit and speak with students in the spring, closer to the national day of Holocaust remembrance, Yom Ha-Shoah. A reconstituted committee is sponsoring this year’s service.

Kristallnacht, or the night of the broken glass, was a pogram, a government inspired mob assault against the Jews living in Nazi Germany that occurred on Nov. 9, 1938.

It came to stand for the final “shattering of Jewish existence in Germany.” The violence took place throughout the Reich, which by then included Austria and the Sudetenland. It appeared to be a spontaneous outburst of national anger but had actually been carefully orchestrated by the Hitler regime.

Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year old Jewish boy living in Paris, was in a fury over the treatment of his parents, Polish Jews who had been living in Germany and were deported to Poland. Hitler wanted a Germany that was Judenrein, clear of Jews.

Germany also harbored great resentment toward Poland for territories lost after World War I. When Poland was brutally invaded by Germany on Sept. 1, 1939, the rationale given by the Nazis was that they needed to make lebensraum, living space, for its citizens.

Before the invasion, by 1938, Poland had stopped accepting Germany’s Jewish citizens. Poland was hit by massive unemployment during the worldwide depression, and as was the pattern in history for such times, Jews became the world’s scapegoats and anti-Semitism increased.

This was not only true for Germany and Poland but many other countries as well.

In the late 1930’s the Polish government had become increasingly concerned with “the Jewish question.” The right wing Endecja party had promoted a national boycott of Jewish merchants that was so radical as to advocate the confiscation of Jewish businesses. A policy of Jewish emigration was recommended. Under the guise of animal rights there was a national movement to forbid the Jewish ritual slaughter or koshering of animals. The Grynszpans were caught in the middle of the Polish-German dispute regarding the emigration of Jews. They wrote to their son Herschel and he heard their despair and in deranged anger sought revenge by assassinating a minor German embassy official in Paris. The Nazis seized the opportunity created by the crime of this Jewish individual and used it as an excuse to punish all the Jews of Germany. A telegram was sent to all police units: “in shortest order, actions against Jews and especially their synagogues will take place in Germany. These are not to be interfered with.” Instead the police were instructed to arrest the victims. Fire companies were ordered to stand back and let the synagogues burn down. They were to act only if the fire threatened a nearby Aryan property.

“Within forty-eight hours, over one thousand synagogues were burned, along with their Torah scrolls, Bible, and prayer books. Seven thousand Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, ninety-six Jews were killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools and homes were destroyed. The attackers were often neighbors. Thirty thousand Jews were arrested. To accommodate so many new prisoners, the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachenhausen were expanded.”

The cost of the broken glass alone came to the equivalent of well over two million dollars. Jews of German nationality were forbidden to sue for damages. The Nazis seized any compensation claims paid to Jews by insurance companies. Jews were responsible for clearing away rubble of the destroyed synagogues and properties. A four hundred million dollar fine was imposed collectively against the Jewish community. After imposing the huge fine Herman Goring remarked: “The swine won’t commit another murder. IncidentallyI would not like to be a Jew in Germany.”

Two weeks after Kristallnacht Jews were barred from schools. Two weeks later local officials were given the right to impose a curfew, and by December Jews were denied access to most public places. All remaining Jewish businesses were Aryanized. For the remaining Jews in Germany the realization set in that life there would not be possible. The end of German Jewry had evolved slowly. By 1933 they were removed from all civil service. In 1935 they were stripped of their citizenship, and then subjected, through the Nuremburg Race Laws, to persecution based on their so-called racial identity. Many tried to leave, but few were able. Chaim Weizman had noted in 1936: “The world seemed to be divided into two parts, those places where Jews could not live and those where they could not enter.” In the summer of 1938 a meeting was called by President Roosevelt to deal with the Jewish refugee crisis. Thirty-two nations sent delegates to Evian, on Lake Geneva. The Nazis gloated at the lack of meaningful assistance that was the outcome. It became “clear that the policy of forced emigration would not work: no one wanted the Jews.”

Submitted by Linda Dunn, Chairperson, Interfaith Holocaust Commemoration Committee. Much of the material for this article was taken from: “The World Must Know” by Michael Berenbaum.