Today marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass. On Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi stormtroopers and non-Jewish civilians descended on towns throughout Germany and parts of Austria, destroying Jewish homes, schools, synagogues, hospitals and businesses. At least 91 Jews were killed in the two-day attack, and roughly 30,000 people were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The dark chapter in German history is seen as a precursor to the Holocaust.
According to Associated Press, Kristallnacht is being commemorated in Germany with candlelight vigils, stories from survivors and walks through neighborhoods affected by the tragedy, as well as people meeting at Jewish cemeteries to remember the victims.
In a speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Kristallnacht “was an event that humiliated Jews in an unbelievable way … a real low point in German history had been reached,” according to Associated Press.
“Unfortunately, later on German history developed in an even more dramatic way which eventually ended in the Shoah” -- or the Holocaust. As AP reports, Merkel also told Germans never to forget the past.
In Berlin, people could be seen polishing some of the city’s 5,000 stolpersteine, or stumbling blocks, commemorative plaques placed in front of the homes of Nazi victims. “We have organized 16 groups who are out today cleaning the stumbling blocks and we are hoping to turn this into an annual event in the future,” Silvija Kavcic told AP.
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Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he hoped for “honest, emotional concern” by Germans on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. “The lesson that we must draw is as simple as it is clear: Never again will we allow ourselves to be attacked because of our Judaism; never again will we allow ourselves to be intimidated,” he said, according to AFP-JIJI.
As AFP-JIJI reports, some 120 retailers in Berlin placed adhesive film depicting broken glass on their shop windows in order to commemorate Kristallnacht and show how Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed.
A Twitter account has also sprung up on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The account, called “Heute vor 75 Jahren,” or “75 Years Ago Today,” gives a historical rundown of those two days in November. “Sunrise in Kassel. Few people on the street, but a lot of glass shards and destroyed furnishings in front of more than 20 shops,” one tweet reads, according to AFP-JIJI.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement to commemorate the anniversary of : “Kristallnacht foreshadowed the systematic slaughter of six million Jews and millions of other innocent victims. Seventy-five years later, Kristallnacht now signifies the tragic consequences of silence in the face of unmitigated hatred.
“As we mark this anniversary, let us act in keeping with the lessons of that dark night by speaking out against anti-Semitism and intolerance, standing up to indifference, and re-committing ourselves to combating prejudice and persecution wherever it exists. In so doing, we honor the memories of those killed and reaffirm that timeless call: ‘Never Again.’”