Kristallnacht, which literally means, “the night of broken glass,” occurred on the night of November 9, 1938, and marks the beginning of the Holocaust. On Kristallnacht, Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses were destroyed by the Nazis and the streets in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe were covered with glass from the shattered windows of synagogues, Jewish homes, and businesses.
Genocide has been in the news lately. On March 17th, Secretary of State John Kerry declared, “In my judgment, Daesh (ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.” But unless the world’s most powerful nation fulfills its legal and moral obligation under the Genocide Convention, thousands more men, women, and children will fall victim to the crime that once had no name.
The way that Reform Judaism has taken the texts of our tradition, with the traumas of our past, to create a transformative responsibility to pursue social justice is a point of pride for me in my Jewish identity. So, when I was asked not to mention that I am a J
In North America, Holocaust remembrance services and programs often include special musical selections in memory of people lost during the war and in honor of those who fought against the Nazis. Such music is profound and varied, and often was used as a vehicle of resistance. For example, “Zogt Nit Keynmol” (“Never Say That You Have Reached the Final Road”) was written in April 1943 in reaction to news of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Composed in Vilna by underground fighter Hirsh Glick and set to a Soviet cinema tune by Dmitri and Daniel Pokrass, the song spread like wildfire throughout Eastern Europe, becoming the official hymn of the partisan brigades.
A less well-known part of the Holocaust is that the Nazis also rounded up gays and lesbians, forcing them to wear pink triangles on their clothes so they could be easily recognized and further humiliated inside the concentration camps.
Yom Hashoah arrives this year on the eve of two historic anniversaries: the 80th anniversary of the coming into effect of the Nuremberg Race Laws, which served as prologue and precursor to the Holocaust, and the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials, which served as the foundation for the development of contemporary international human rights and humanitarian law. We must ask ourselves two questions: What have we learned? What must we do?