Monday, November 10, 2008

Kristallnacht, 9 November 1938

As some of my readers may recall, "Crystal Night," the night of broken glass, was the pogrom 70 years ago yesterday in which Germany moved from harassment and judicial persecution to open official lawlessness against the Jews, leading to their annihilation. Those of you that never knew or have forgotten, that shows why we never learn from experience - unless in his mercy God opens our ears, eyes, and hearts.

I include below Tony Greenstein's letter to the Guardian in Britain yesterday.

The lessons of Kristallnacht for the modern Middle East

Sidney Jacob's denial (Letters, November 5) of the comparison that Paul Oestreicher draws (The legacy of Kristallnacht, (November 4) is a knee-jerk reaction that seeks to portray Nazi Germany's attitude to the Jews as a unique, one-off occurrence. Unfortunately there are only too many parallels that can be drawn in the period 1933-39.

When Jewish mobs shouted "death to the Arabs" in Acre a few weeks ago, that was certainly reminiscent of pogroms in Europe. When slogans such as "Arabs to the gas chambers" are daubed on the separation wall, the parallels are also clear. When Israeli military and police stand by while Arabs peasants tending their olive groves are assaulted by settlers, and when even international observers are injured, then that brings to mind a similar refusal by authorities in Germany to uphold the law and protect their Jewish inhabitants.

The lesson of Kristallnacht is surely that any group of people, given the right set of circumstances, can become transformed from oppressed to oppressor. Settler colonialism in Israel-Palestine has reduced the Palestinians to a sub-human status. A majority of Israeli Jews in opinion polls have repeatedly made clear that they don't wish to live next door to an Arab and would prefer Israel's own Palestinian citizens to emigrate.

The only part of Paul Oestreicher's article I disagree with is his suggestion that the vast majority of Germans took part in Kristallnacht. It was a state organised, SA pogrom, orchestrated by the gauleiter of Berlin, Josef Goebbels. It was deeply unpopular with ordinary Germans, as Ian Kershaw's Hitler Myth makes clear, but by 1938 the ordinary population had been cowed by the Gestapo and the concentration camp apparatus of Nazi Germany.

Tony Greenstein

This carries a warning for Americans, and especially its Christians, who have approved even worse conduct by Americans around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, based on the same sorts of lies the Nazis used to justify their conduct. As Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan has reminded us, unlike the Germans Americans still lack the excuse of having been cowed by the Gestapo and a concentration camp apparatus.


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