On the night of November 9, 1938, Nazis launched an unprecedented attack on Jews throughout Germany. While law enforcement officers stood idly by, Nazis burned synagogues and vandalized Jewish owned businesses. The damage was so extensive that this event became known as Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass.
To remember this night, which claimed nearly 100 Jewish lives, the College of Saint Elizabeth’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education hosted the 29th Annual Kristallnacht Commemoration on Monday, November 4. Dr. Helen J Streubert, the president of CSE, set the tone for the event in her welcoming address.
“We are committed to remembering this important history because a commitment to those who have been marginalized is at the soul of who we are at the College of Saint Elizabeth. We are one human family, focused on the good for all.”
The keynote speaker was Dr. Peter Hayes, a notable author and Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University. His speech explored the escalation of antisemitism in Germany and how the events of Kristallnacht were a catalyst for Holocaust.
“Kristallnacht revealed the availability of a key means to [the annihilation of the Jews],” said Hayes. “Assaults on Jews and their possessions were cheered on around the country by male teenagers imbued with the blood lust the regime had schooled into the population during the preceding years. The willingness of these youths to mock and attack the Jewish natives foreshadowed their readiness to later inflict torture and death upon Jews.”
To underscore the horrors of the Holocaust, Mark Schonwetter shared his survivor testimony. During World War II, Schonwetter was forced to spend years hiding with his mother and sister in the Polish countryside. Without a definitive place to go, the family resorted to living in the forest during the warmer months and spent their winters desperately seeking warmth. One winter, they could only find shelter by living in a trench hidden in a pig-pen.
“We should all unite and make sure that the hatred should never repeat itself,” said Schonwetter. “We should have this in the back of our mind, that we should do everything feasible to make sure it never happens again.”
The evening also included performances of traditional songs by the Jewish choir, Ashrey, directed by Cantor Joel Caplan of Congregation Agudath Israel
Mary Colleen Robinson has a communication degree with a concentration in journalism and is currently working as the PR/Social Media Specialist at the College of Saint Elizabeth