FRANKFURT, Nov. 3 (JTA) – The sounds of Nazis shattering glass panes, setting synagogues on fire and shouting anti-Semitic slogans still reverberate in Germany – 59 years after an unforgettable night of terror. Hundreds of events throughout Germany, scheduled by local governments and private organizations on Nov. 9, will commemorate Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. On Nov. 9-10, 1938, in a well-orchestrated national action planned by Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels, marauding bands of Nazis and their sympathizers destroyed synagogues and shops belonging to Jews across Germany. Many synagogues were set afire while large crowds of onlookers watched without intervening. Thousands of Jewish men and boys were arrested and deported to concentration camps. Kristallnacht occurred five years after the Nazis instituted their anti- Semitic persecutions, and many Germans today regard that fateful night as marking the beginning of the Holocaust. As a result, Kristallnacht commemorations scheduled for next week in cities throughout Germany will not only recall the horrifying events of that evening, but will also remind Germans of the consequences of anti-Semitism and racism. The commemorations will be sponsored by German officials as well as by local Jewish communities. In Frankfurt, a ceremony is planned that includes speeches by city and state officials and by the president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, Ignatz Bubis. Many of the ceremonies will be held at city halls or local Jewish cemeteries and will include prayers, the laying of wreaths and the reciting of Kaddish. Some of the events are planned by local German groups involved with Christian-Jewish relations or with the study of local Jewish history. In Berlin, high school students will present a play called, “In Reality, It Was the Last Sign Before the Extermination.” In the western city of Wiesbaden, actors will partake in a performance inspired by paintings created by Jewish artists. Many churches plan to sponsor events on that evening, including lectures, concerts and readings of works by Jewish authors. Several German television stations will also participate in the commemorations. The public television station for the region of Hesse, Hessischer Rundfunk, will broadcast four hours of documentaries and studio discussions on the persecution and dispossession of the German Jewish community under the Nazi regime. Nov. 9 has been a fateful day in German history. In 1918, it was the date that the Weimar Republic, the first democratic government in German history, was established. In 1989, it was the evening on which the Berlin Wall came down, ending the postwar division of Germany. After German unification, there was a debate about whether to make Nov. 9 a national holiday. Because of the somber commemoration of Kristallnacht on this date, many politicians considered it inappropriate as a national independence day. Instead, Germans celebrate their postwar unification on Oct. 3, the day East and West Germany were formally united in 1990. Next year, a national ceremony is planned for the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Next: THE PULSE OF REFORM JEWRY [Part 2] Leaders urge spiritual return, well aware of their challenges >