On the 85th anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, Stewart Florsheim has this Perspective.
November 9, 2023 marks the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or “the night of broken glass.” The event took place in 1938, when the Nazis launched attacks on Jews and their property in and around Germany, leaving the streets littered with glass. My mother and her family lived in Frankfurt at the time. My grandfather had a kosher meat market which was destroyed, and he was sent to Dachau.
I think of my history often now, because I have the privilege of leading a memoir-writing workshop for Holocaust survivors. My students are amazing! They’re all in their nineties, and come from various places in Europe. Some of them lived in hiding; a couple of them were on the Kindertransport; one of them tried to immigrate to America on the ill-fated boat, the St Louis. Each of them writes with the urgency of stories that have to be told.
The class met a few days after the invasion of Israel on October 7, and was sparsely attended. The people who were there were clearly upset, so we spent a good amount of time processing the news. The next day, I received an email from one of my students who apologized for her absence and said she didn’t know if she would make it to the next class. The current slaughter reminded her of the Holocaust, and she didn’t want to dwell on those memories right now.
On October 7, with over 1400 people killed in Israel, the world allegedly witnessed the worst slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. On this anniversary of Kristallnacht, I would like to honor them, as well as all of the innocent Palestinians who have also lost their lives. My student sent me another note about the lesson she learned during the Holocaust: “If the atrocities committed by the enemy fill you forever with rage and hatred, they have won. Your side may have won the war, but you have lost your soul.”