Kellen Stepler | assistant features editor
Kristallnacht, which translates from German to “night of the broken glass,” happened Nov. 9 to 10, 1938, when Nazis in Germany burned synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, shops, schools and businesses and killed almost 100 Jews. Around 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
To commemorate the incident, Duquesne University hosted Colin Shindler, an emeritus professor from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies during its 5th annual Kristallnacht remembrance lecture.
Shindler’s presentation, titled “The Road from Kristallnacht: Unlearning the Past,” took place Monday, Nov. 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Power Center Ballroom. Around 60 people attended the lecture.
Marie Baird, theology professor and director of Jewish studies at Duquesne, opened Shindler’s lecture with a background on Kristallnacht.
Baird addressed the importance of having an event like this today.
“[Shindler’s] message can serve as a timely warning to us all to fight against anti-Semitic sentiments or acts wherever they occur,” Baird said.
Baird hoped that attendees not only understand the enormity of Kristallnacht itself, but also the fact of Nazi violence yet to come during the Holocaust.
“We hope attendees understand not only the enormity of the event but also the fact that such wanton violence set the stage for the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust that were shortly to commence,” Baird said.
German Jews were subject to repressive policies beginning in 1933, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, but it wasn’t until Kristallnacht that the policies became very violent.
During World War II, Hitler and the Nazis implemented what they called the “Final Solution” to what they referred to as the “Jewish problem,” and carried out the murder of some 6 million European Jews in the Holocaust.
Duquesne sociology department chair Matthew Schneirov introduced Shindler.
Shindler addressed the continuing aftermath of Kristallnacht at the event.
The number of anti-Semitic acts is on the rise again worldwide. A 2017 report released from the FBI showed that hate crimes have increased over the past decade. The report also noted that anti-Semitism accounts for 58.1% of all anti-religious hate crimes nationally.
“History is for all, but for some, it is memory that matters,” Shindler said.
He spoke about the historical context of Kristallnacht when it happened in 1938, and the impact it has today. He noted the reemergence of hate and anti-Semitism through events in Charlottesville and Pittsburgh.
Although Kristallnacht occurred 81 years ago, there are still lessons to be learned.
“The Allies might have won the war, but Jews still lost,” Shindler said.
He stressed the importance of working hard to eradicate anti-Semitism and racism, and that people can not sit by and be followers.
“No one should be a bystander,” Shindler said.
Concluding Shindler’s speech, there was a question and answer session. While most people asked Shindler questions about combating anti-Semitism today, a woman named Patty Love Anouchi told a story from when she was in elementary school and dealt with an act of anti-Semitism.
When Anouchi was in 4th or 5th grade, President Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Wendell Willkie to earn his third term in office. According to Anouchi, most of the people in her small town voted for Willkie, the Republican nominee. The day following the election, a fellow classmate approached Anouchi and said that the only reason Roosevelt won was because “all the Jews voted for him.”
Anouchi recalled that she slapped her fellow classmate.
“And I’ve never regretted that slap,” Anouchi said.