A Jewish Child and a ‘Nazi’ Child Remember Kristallnacht

Image Bank / Alamy

BERLIN — Eighty years ago, on the night in which the Nazi regime’s marginalization of Germany’s Jewish minority turned to naked terror, torah scrolls were burned in the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin. Friday morning in the same synagogue, on a day that also marks the 100-year anniversary of the birth of the democracy that tolerated Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the question: “What have we really learned?”

To connect Germany’s present to its past is to provide a foundation for a future “in which we recognize a person in every person,” Merkel said. The Holocaust memorial at the center of Berlin tries to give meaning to the unbelievable number of six million murdered Jews by naming them individually. “It is about people,” Merkel said, “Every single one had a name, intrinsic dignity, and an identity.”  

The brutality of “Kristallnacht,” or Crystal Night, as the Nazis called a night of broken windows and spirits, did not just play out in cities, but also reached far into the provinces. The violence also took place in Austria, which had been annexed by the Nazis to cheering crowds in Vienna a few months earlier. Not every region has confronted its past in the same way, and not many witnesses are still alive today. But we were able to speak to the Holocaust survivor Menachem Mayer, who was born in a small German village called Hoffenheim, and to Siegfried Kernberger, from the southern Austrian state of Carinthia, on what they remember of that night.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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