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Progress and Pain: Eighty Years After Kristallnacht
November 9, 2018
Progress and Pain: Eighty Years After Kristallnacht
Posted by Lora Tarlin

Jewish-owned business in Berlin with smashed windows after Kristallnacht.


On the evening of November 9, 1938, carefully orchestrated anti-Jewish violence erupted throughout the Third Reich. Over the next 48 hours, rioters in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland burned or damaged more than 1,000 synagogues and ransacked and broke the windows of more than 7,500 businesses. Some 30,000 Jewish men between the ages of 16 and 60 were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Police stood by as the violence — often the actions of neighbors, not strangers — occurred. Firemen were present, not to protect the synagogues, but to ensure that the flames did not spread to adjacent “Aryan” property. The pogrom was given a quaint name: Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night,” or “Night of Broken Glass”).

Echoes of the Past

Eighty years after the most notorious pogrom of the Nazi era, the feeling that anti-Semitism is on the rise in America became all too real when a gunman opened fire and killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. None of us can truly comprehend how or why this senseless tragedy occurred.

Yet the difference is remarkable from eighty years ago. The day after the shooting, I was sitting in a room full of Holocaust survivors at Café Europa at Temple Reyim in Newton, MA, and I heard several survivors say to the organizers, “Thanks so much for having a police detail for us today. I feel safe. The police are here to protect us.” The strength of these survivors must teach all of us to never forget and to never allow hate to win.

How to Help Holocaust Survivors

If you would like to help survivors living in your community, Jewish Family & Children’s Service offers a number of ways to get involved. Our Schechter Holocaust Services program is looking for volunteers to drive survivors to medical appointments, help with grocery shopping, and provide companionship. Volunteers are also welcome to work in our Waltham office or lend a helping hand with our monthly social gatherings for Holocaust survivors, known as “Café Hakalah.”

To start volunteering with JF&CS, please fill out our Volunteer Registration Form and be sure to check the box for “Holocaust survivors and their families” under Assignment Interests. Making a donation to JF&CS is also a wonderful way to help survivors. Thank you so much for your support!

Lora Tarlin is Director of Schechter Holocaust Services at JF&CS. She has a MA in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University. Lora has been with Schechter Holocaust Services for six years and has served as director since February 2017.  

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