Remembering Kristallnacht 1938 helps us learn from past mistakes

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  • 71st Flying Training Wing
The Holocaust is not merely a story of destruction and loss; it is a story of an apathetic world and a few rare individuals of extraordinary courage. It is a remarkable story of the human spirit and the life that flourished before the Holocaust, the struggle and darkest hours during, and eventually prevailing against the horrors.

The theme of this year's Holocaust Remembrance week was 'Do not Stand Silent; Remembering Kristallnacht 1938." In November 1938, the Nazis unleashed a wave of attacks against Germany's Jews. In the space of a few hours , thousands of synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed. This event came to be called Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") for the shattered store windowpanes that carpeted German streets. The pretext for this violence was the Nov. 7 assassination of a German diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, by Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish teenager whose parents, along with 17,000 other Polish Jews, had recently been expelled from the Reich. Though portrayed as spontaneous outbursts of popular outrage, these pogroms were calculated acts of retaliation carried out by the SA, SS and local Nazi party organizations.

During a Holocaust Remembrance prayer, Navy Chaplain (Cmdr.) Arnold Resnicoff, offered this: "So, from the Holocaust, we learn when we deny humanity in others, we destroy humanity within ourselves. When we reject the human, the holy, in any neighbor's soul, then we unleash the beast and the barbaric, in our own heart. And, since the Holocaust, we pray: if the time has not yet dawned when we can all proclaim our faith in God, then let us say at least that we admit we are not gods ourselves."

The Holocaust is a strong reminder etched in history of what such extreme bigotry, hatred and intolerance can cause. The United States Holocaust Memorial Council, created by Congress in 1980, was mandated to lead the nation in civic commemorations and to encourage appropriate remembrance observances throughout the country.

For more information, write to Days of Remembrance, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, S.W., Washington, DC 20024 or visit the Museum's Web page at