Friday, November 08, 2013

Kristallnacht: It hasn't stopped

 THIS weekend marks the 75th anniversary of the infamous Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, actually several nights, in which the Nazi regime in Germany, a supposedly civilised and cultured Western country, unleashed savagery against Jewish people and property.

The excuse was the act of a 17-year old Jew in Paris, Hirshl Grynszpan, in shooting an official at the German embassy, a supposed act of "terrorism", though Grynszpan had been driven to it after hearing how his parents and others without citizenship had been mistreated, herded into 'no man's land' on the Polish border with only abandoned farm buildings as shelter from the harsh winter.

Hitler's aim with Kristallnacht was both to step up the exodus of German Jews, whose jobs and property could be seized, and to test out the world's response.

Since that week we have had a world war, the nightmare of the Holocaust, the formation of the United Nations with its Declaration of Human Rights, and assurances that Never would such horrors against masses of humanity be allowed to occur again. Racism, ill-treatment of refugees, collective "punishment" of defenceless civilians, state-sanctioned violence and hatred of minorities persist. 75 years after Grynszpan's parents were driven from their home, thousands of Bedouin are being made homeless under Israel's Prawer plan.

In Germany the Kristallnacht anniversary this year is being commemorated with official exhibitions and conferences, while in several countries in Europe it is the occasion each year for events opposing not just antisemitism but all forms of racism. In Britain, led by the Jewish Socialists' Group, the following statement signed by over 200 people, including rabbis, MPs, academics and writers, has been issued for Kristallnacht:

75 years after Kristallnacht: minorities in danger

On 9th/10th November 1938, Nazi stormtroopers led a wave of violent attacks on Jewish people and property throughout Germany and Austria, which the Nazis had annexed. During these pogroms, 91 Jews were killed, thousands were taken from their homes and incarcerated in concentration camps, 267 synagogues were destroyed, and some 7,500 Jewish-owned shops were smashed and looted. The Kristallnacht pogroms presaged attempts to remove Jews from German life completely.

Many Jews left hurriedly to seek refuge in friendly countries, including Britain, but Britain was already in the grip of an “aliens scare”. Newspaper headlines declared: “Alien Jews Pouring In”, and claimed that “Refugees Get Jobs, Britons Get Dole”. The media accused Jewish asylum seekers of “over-running the country”.

Despite wide public revulsion at the violence of Kristallnacht, powerful elements in British politics and business continued to admire Hitler and the Nazi regime.

75 years after Kristallnacht, racists and fascists inspired by the Nazis continue to attack minorities in Europe. In Hungary neo-fascists target Gypsies and Jews. In Greece Golden Dawn members and supporters brutally attack migrants and political opponents. Here in Britain, minority communities, especially Muslims, have been targeted in an atmosphere that is increasingly hostile towards migrants and refugees.

As Jewish people mindful of this history, we are equally alarmed at continuing fascist violence and the toxic sentiments expressed by many politicians and much of the media against migrants, asylum seekers, Gypsies and Travellers.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in their efforts to live here in freedom and safety, to contribute to society, and be treated as equals. As Jews we stand together with all communities seeking to combat racism and fascism here and elsewhere.

(Statement drawn up by Jewish Socialist magazine BM3725 London WC1N 3XX)

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