Many of our readers may be aware that November 9th-10th is the anniversary of the 1938 pogrom known as the Kristallnacht.
Germany was under the leadership of Adolph Hitler and his National Socialist German Worker’s Party. His long-time associate, Ernst Röhm, was head of the StürmAbteilung (SA); the notorious “Brown Shirts”.
That night, the paramilitary branch of the SA, with the willing assistance of many German civilians, conducted a series of planned and coordinated violent attacks upon Jews’ homes, property, businesses, and synagogues throughout Germany and Austria. They used fire, fists, boots, sledgehammers and bullets. The hapless victims were beaten, often to unrecognizability, skulls smashed, faces destroyed.
Over thirty thousand people were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Over one thousand synagogues were destroyed. and seven thousand businesses were attacked. Many hundreds of Jews were murdered, and several hundred, in utter despair, committed suicide that night. The Sicherheitsdienst (SD) took claim of the remaining spoils.
Police and other authorities generally refused to intervene. Indeed, the government, acting upon the pretextual killing of Ernst vom Rath, assessed the savaged Jews of Germany a collective fine of a Billion Reichsmarks, and levied a seizure of 20% of their property forfeit to the State, as compensation for harm done by the Jews to the German People.
Persecution of Jews had been growing in Germany since the 1920’s. But, Kristallnacht, and its aftermath was the schwerpunkt about which pivoted the movement toward genocide. The Final Solution to the “Jewish Problem” was ultimately set to paper by the bloodless Wannsee Conference four years later.
Monday, this year, is also the 17th day of the Jewish month of Cheshvan. According to tradition, in the 1656th year after Creation (2105 BCE) the rain began which culminated in the Great Flood. Noach is well known as the builder of the biblical Ark, within which the paired animals and his immediate family survived the destruction of every living thing.
Noach is described as a righteous man “in his time”. The critic would note that “his time” was so corrupt that G-d himself determined it best to wipe the slate clean. Indeed, although Noach had devoted one hundred twenty years in constructing the Ark, that he, nonetheless would not board until the flood waters had risen to his knees. G-d wanted him to be a leader, to influence people to do Good. The world desperately needed leaders, to guide people on the upright path. But, Noach was no leader.
Upon the end of the year-long flood, and the drying of the land, Noach emerged, built an altar, and brought offerings to G-d. In response, G-d blessed Noach and his family, vowing that never again would He seek to utterly destroy his creation. From Noach’s line grew seventy families, with seventy paths, but one universal standard for all; built upon G-d’s relationship with Adam and Chava, the Sheva Mitzvot B’nei Noach or Seven Noachide Laws. They are:
Avodah Zarah: Prohibits idolatry in all its forms.
Birchat Hashem: Blessing of the Name of G-d, and conversely, prohibits blasphemy.
Shefichat Damim: Prohibits murder (the unjust taking of a human life)
Gezel: Prohibits robbery and theft.
Gilui Arayot: Prohibits immorality and forbidden sexual relations.
Ever Min HaChay: Prohibits removing and eating a limb from a live animal (animal cruelty)
Dinim: Requirement to establish justice systems and courts of law.
So long as human beings follow these basic principles they acts righteously and please G-d.
Contrary to the desperate hopes and frenzied declarations of many, that Kristallnacht, and in fact the entire Nazi era, was a historical aberration; a confluence of factors unlikely ever to be repeated, I say, this was, and is the true face of man, as Killer Ape, once given the indulgence of sin and the opportunity to let loose their passions without cost. History is rife with examples.
As Sheila Stokes-Begley has so aptly pointed out, once we accept that the “other” is less than worthy of fundamental rights, and equal protection of law, it is an easy and short step to demonizing them as “sub-human”. So common is this practice today, especially in popular media, that author, Mike Vanderboegh bestows upon the offenders the Julius Streicher Memorial Award
Each of us must redouble our efforts not just to avoid Evil, not to just be righteous “in our time”, but to run to do Good. Moreover, we should strive to be leaders. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.