This Shabbat is our Remembrance Shabbat at the IJC. We will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht - the Night of the Broken Glass – which took place across Germany and Austria on the 9th-10th November 1938.
Around 100 Jews were killed and 30,000 arrested on this terrible night. Jewish homes, shops and synagogues were smashed, looted and burned. Furthermore, ahead of Armistice Day on 11th November we will also remember the soldiers, including those who fought heroically against the Nazis. They gave their lives so that we could live in freedom today.
On Sunday there was a full-house to listen to our member, Eric Mark. As well as recounting how he became a British spy as a “secret listener” during the Second World War, he also told us about his life growing up in 1930s Germany. When another student called him “a dirty Jew”, Eric punched him in the face, but he soon found himself outnumbered. The Headmaster then expelled him from the school – which later Eric understood was because he was no longer considered safe there amongst the other students. Eric escaped by train to England in 1935, his younger brother was able to follow him, but his parents were not so lucky.
Last Shabbat I was in Budapest with some of the IJC teens. We enjoyed an intensive Jewish experience – visiting 13 synagogues in 72 hours! But of course there were other activities too. We received a warm welcome in Szim Salom, the liberal community where I spent a year already a decade ago, and we sang songs together after dinner until almost midnight! This is something that I hope we can introduce into our own Friday night pot-luck dinners – there must be some guitarists and other musicians amongst our members – please step forward and identify yourselves!
We visited the Holocaust Museum in Pava Utca. One of the things that struck me from their exhibition was the laws against Jews that were already starting in the 1920s. Numerus Clausus restricted the numbers of Jews who could attend the universities, and there was a general strategy to cause the impoverishment of the Jewish community, who were seen as being too successful and having too much wealth. This caused much suffering for the Hungarian Jews in the years before the war broke out, and unravelled the full citizenship of their country that they had received in the nineteenth century.
Kristallnacht was a terrible night, and a violent symbol of Nazi desecration and destruction of Jewish life. It came after several years of the delegitimizing of Germany’s Jewish citizens. We must remember these atrocities, and never forget them. Please do join us this Shabbat if you can.
Rabbi Nathan Alfred