The days leading up to the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9-10—the first major event after Hitler’s rise to power that precipitated the Holocaust—have been eerily similar between a Torah destroyed at a George Washington University fraternity house and arson at Congregation Beth Israel in Austin.
Just a few weeks ago in Brooklyn, Sharee Jones doused the Yeshiva of Flatbush with gasoline and set it on fire. The lack of media coverage beyond local outlets and general lack of attention to such an obvious act of antisemitism are horrifying.
Antisemitism in 1930s Germany didn’t start with Kristallnacht—that was the first crescendo before the deportation of Jews began. It started with Hitler blaming Germany’s dire economic situation on the Jews. It started with boycotts of Jewish businesses and Jews themselves.
It was enabled by Jews who tried to convince their communities that Hitler wouldn’t be so bad, arguing that he and his cronies couldn’t possibly intend to actually implement the policies they postured in the Nazi party newspapers Angriff and Völkischer Beobachter. How could something written so clearly possibly be misinterpreted?
Regarding Hitler’s rise to power, the editorial board of Der Israelit wrote, “they will not suddenly divest German Jews of their constitutional rights, lock them away in race ghettos, or subject them to the avaricious and murderous impulses of the mob” because “many other crucial factors hold their powers in check.”
Actually, that is exactly what happened. Jews were divested of their constitutional rights, locked away in race ghettos and subjected to mob rule.
Mob rule is precisely what happened at the University of Southern California when Undergraduate Student Government President Truman Fritz and Vice President Rose Ritch were forced to step down in August 2020 by antisemites who claimed that their support for Zionism as Jews made them “racist.”
The mob reigned at the University of Illinois when the student senate voted 29-4 during Sukkot of 2019—preventing Jews from participating in the meeting—that they had the authority to determine what antisemitism is and is not without consulting any Jews or Jewish organizations. Of course, according to them, anti-Zionism is perfectly permissible and completely divorced from antisemitism.
If Kristallnacht were to occur in the modern-day United States, how much media coverage would it get? It basically already happened on a smaller scale in Los Angeles during the George Floyd riots, with the vandalism and destruction of several synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses. The news coverage is almost entirely by Jewish news sources because the mainstream media didn’t want to cover something that painted “righteous” rioting in a negative light.
If there is any takeaway from the anniversary of Kristallnacht, it is not to bury our heads in the sand like the editorial board of Der Israelit in 1933. These were Orthodox Jews who believed “turning a few sections of the Nazi Party’s racial theory program into political practice…could easily be accomplished—without resorting to the creation of sensationalistic and compromising laws against Jews.”
I wish they had been right.
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