On the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht
As the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht approaches this weekend, the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County is mindful of the imperative to educate our community and ourselves to never forget what happened on this and so many other infamous dates in our history.
The Federation works with local synagogues and partner agencies to provide programs of education and awareness of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, as well as year-round programs teaching about the Jewish values of tolerance, empathy, compassion, and caring for vulnerable populations.
Known as the "Night of Broken Glass," the horrifying events of November 9-10, 1938, saw the near or total destruction of over 1,000 synagogues and more than 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses, the arrest of nearly 30,000 Jews who were then sent to concentration camps, and countless other atrocities.
"What is significant is that this was probably the first time that Jews were sent to concentration camps just because they were Jewish," says Eileen Shapiro, who was the Holocaust Studies program planner for Palm Beach County K-12 Schools for 14 years. "Up until now, there was always a reason. They were political prisoners, they did this, they did that, but now it was solely because they were Jewish. [Kristallnacht] was really a turning point in the Nazi regime in terms of persecution, and it is a significant event in history.”
Despite the deep integration of German Jews into German society in prior years, the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party brought with it a vociferous and violent wave of anti-Semitic policies.
"The events of Kristallnacht really started on October 28," says Holocaust survivor, speaker, and author of “My Darkest Years,” Jim Bachner of Palm Beach County. "The German government decided to stage a raid and arrest all the Jewish people that at the time had a Polish passport."
Ahead of time, Bachner's mother saw that something horrible was coming and managed to escape their house with very few belongings, riding on streetcars, subways, and buses through the night, until it was finally safe to return to their home. "Reality changed overnight,” Bachner recalls. “Nothing was left intact in our home or in our father's business.”
Jim Bachner will speak about his experiences this Friday evening at Temple Israel in West Palm Beach. Commemoration of Kristallnacht will be taking place all around our community.