Is Charlottesville our Night of Broken Glass?

In November 1938, mobs of Germans and Austrians destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses, and committed acts of violence against the Jewish people. “Kristallnacht”, meaning “Night of Crystal” is remembered throughout the world as the “Night of Broken Glass”- due to the vandalism of hundreds of synagogues and Jewish owned businesses that left broken glass throughout the streets over a couple of days.

Importantly, the German government blamed the Jews- both in the cause of the riots and in the aftermath.  A German embassy official had been assassinated in Paris by a distraught Polish Jew. Hitler surrogate and Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels spoke to blame the Jews, and stated that the government would not hamper “spontaneous” demonstrations against the Jews. Taken as encouragement by the Nazis and even apolitical competitors of Jewish business owners, the scale of destruction and violence was enormous, even by standards of 1930s anti-Semitic Europe. After the destruction, the German government BLAMED THE JEWS. Approximately 30,000 Jewish males were arrested during the violence. The German governments’ formal response:

“In the immediate aftermath of the pogrom, many German leaders, like Hermann Göring, criticized the extensive material losses produced by the antisemitic riots, pointing out that if nothing were done to intervene, German insurance companies—not Jewish-owned businesses—would have to carry the costs of the damages. Nevertheless, Göring and other top Party leaders decided to use the opportunity to introduce measures to eliminate Jews and perceived Jewish influence from the German economic sphere.

The German government made an immediate pronouncement that “the Jews” themselves were to blame for the pogrom and imposed a fine of one billion Reichsmark (some 400 million US dollars at 1938 rates) on the German Jewish community. The Reich government confiscated all insurance payouts to Jews whose businesses and homes were looted or destroyed, leaving the Jewish owners personally responsible for the cost of all repairs.” As described on the online website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

I would be remiss to imply that the immense and widespread suffering of the Jewish people in Europe was by any means an equivalent to what occurred in Charlottesville, VA this past week. Must we wait for it to be equivalent? What we can compare is the context. The Night of Broken Glass occurred in 1938 Germany and Austria, in a time of great and long festering anti-Semitism. It was considered the turning point for the Nazis, a test of whether their agenda could move forward without significant opposition. Again, from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, as published online and referenced herein:

“The events of Kristallnacht represented one of the most important turning points in National Socialist antisemitic policy. Historians have noted that after the pogrom, anti-Jewish policy was concentrated more and more concretely into the hands of the SS. Moreover, the passivity with which most German civilians responded to the violence signaled to the Nazi regime that the German public was prepared for more radical measures.”

Context: In the United States of America, land of the free and equality for all, in 2017, hundreds of Americans, many of whom were visibly and significantly armed, carried lit torches, walked through public streets, shouting Nazi slogans, and chanting hate slogans against Jews, people of color, and other minorities.  Media interviews of participants show people proudly proclaiming their agenda, to rid the United States of all of these groups, to create a white, Aryan nation. The leader of the United States placed equal blame, at best, on the targets of this hate demonstration and those that stood with them.

Are they taking over the country? Not right now, no. But, should we not be concerned that their numbers and prominence are growing? The Nazi party began in Germany as a fringe element. This demonstration was a test. A test of their power, a test of how the government would respond, and a test for planning the next steps. The next white nationalist demonstrations are already being organized- will they continue to grow? When will be our turning point? This is an equivalent moral turning point for the leaders of our nation.  Action must be swiftly taken so that this group does not believe it has friends in the White House, and they do not continue to gain momentum and influence.

We always say “never again”. But, we are strongly criticized for invoking that past when we see the same agenda of hate and prejudice. I’ll take the criticism. The alternative is silence, which is equivalent to collaboration, and we know how that turned out for so many innocent victims of the SAME. EXACT. AGENDA. It may not have been the Night of Broken Glass, but it certainly was a Night of Broken Hearts.