Kristallnacht

November 9-10th, 2012 mark the 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass” in Germany and Austria in 1938 which set the stage for a state sponsored Holocaust that would last until the end of World War II. This paroxysm of violence unleashed by Nazi Storm Troopers, Hitler Youth, and anti-Semitic “ordinary Germans” of all ages, resulted in a conflagration in which Jews were beaten and humiliated, 91 died, and another 30,000 rounded up and sent to concentration camps. As the rampage continued, Jewish homes, schools, hospitals and businesses were looted, damaged and demolished; over a thousand synagogues were burned. (Alan E. Steinweis, Kristallnacht, 1938, Harvard University Press, 2009)

The following poem, “Resurrection of Jews in Germany”, was written by Erik Bendix in 1989. Erik’s father Ludwig Bendix survived the concentration camp of Dachau and lived to know Erik as an infant, (www.movingmoment.com/poetry) Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is again on the rise in Germany and other parts of Europe.

 

We are coming back.

Not for revenge.

Not for your sake.

Not even to prove something to God.

But because life demands it.

We do it reluctantly.

Yet we know our resistance

Will have to yield.

Our children already want to know

Why we fled our homeland,

And now try to extract justice

From Arabs who weren’t even there.

They want to know

Where we lost

This God we speak of.

We want honest children,

And must admit

We have a hole in our hearts.

Back then we had to flee or die.

But now?

Excuse us, we want to pray here,

On German soil,

Where the souls of our loved ones

Still can’t find any rest in the ground.

We know that your sleep

Is just as disturbed as ours,

And that you flee your own homeland

To healing spas around the globe,

That you aren’t sure if foreigners

Are welcome in your country,

Perhaps because you suspect

You might no longer be welcome yourself,

That you can’t answer

Your children’s questions either.

Tell us, was it out of jealousy

That our loved ones were murdered?

Was the Thousand-Year Reich

And its One People

Jealous references to us,

Since Germany struggled for mere decades

To hang together,

While we did it for millennia

Using only books?

Did you gas us because

You yourselves were gassed in trenches

And then couldn’t fight back?

Your thinkers now debate whether

Only European culture has come of age,

Ours about whether God still chooses us.

But are any of us talking to each other?

Our rabbis have tried for a whole generation

Never to forget,

But what stuck in memory

Was death

Which we still stare at without breathing.

To really breathe again will require living pain.

It will require that we no longer

Die witnessing,

But live fully and long.

That is what it says in our book: choose life.

In your book it says:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

We are still your neighbors.

Imagine: after a long absence,

We, your neighbors, begin to return.

Soon we’ll move in next door,

And we’ll stand around making noise in the streets.

Soon we’ll be joking with German officials.

We’ll sit at the tables for regular guests

And marry your children.

German houses and land

Will come back into our hands.

We’ll be citizens again!

The empty memorial synagogues will begin to fill.

Is this a nightmare? No.

The whole world fears a recurrence,

But it is the fear that repeats itself.

The times are new.

We Jews will return to Germany.

No, not suddenly tomorrow all of us at the border.

Not next year either.

It will happen more gradually,

Here and there at first,

And then with gathering strength,

Like everything that grows.

You’ll see.

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