German Church Condemns Kristallnacht Silence
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German Church Condemns Kristallnacht Silence

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“What happened in November 1938 happened in public, in full view of everyone. . . . And no one could say he or she knew nothing about what was going on,” the German Evangelical Church declared in a statement released here Wednesday.

The statement noted the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Nov. 9, the first organized Nazi pogrom against German Jews.

It acknowledged and condemned historic Christian guilt for the persecution of Jews, and its support, indifference or “fearful silence” in the face of atrocities.

The German Evangelical Church in East Germany, which embraces the United, Reform and Lutheran branches of Protestantism in both Germanys, issued its statement through the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.

Kristallnacht, or night of broken glass, received its name from the smashed windows of Jewish homes, shops and synagogues that littered the sidewalks of German cities and towns after the pogrom.

The statement by the Evangelical Church begins by noting that “Nov. 9, 1988 marks the 50th anniversary of the day when the Nazi leaders of the German Reich ordered the synagogues to be burnt, Jewish places of worship desecrated, Jewish shops and homes plundered and Jewish citizens mistreated, abducted or murdered.

“What happened in November 1938 happened in public, in full view of everyone. Targets of this persecution were all Jewish people. Racial hubris thus revealed its cruel disdain for human rights,” the statement added.


“No one could say he or she knew nothing about what was going on. Those who planned and carried out this crime could reckon with the support, indifference or fearful silence of the majority of our nation.

“Christians with few exceptions also remained silent,” the statement noted.

It said it recalled these events “not to level accusations at the generation of those who were involved in them.

“Instead, we are aware of the fact that the guilt of that time will retain its power to bind us if we remain silent or try to suppress the memory.”

The statement acknowledged that “both theology and the church played a part in the long history of alienation from and enmity toward the Jews. The church did not recognize the deep inner ties between Judaism and Christianity.”

The statement went on to say that “for this reason, our thinking, our words and our deeds must never again help to promote enmity toward the Jews.”

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