From “Kristallnacht” (Night of Broken Glass) to Theresienstadt
The traditional annual ceremony in memory of “Kristallnacht”, the pogrom in Germany in November 1938, held by the Organization of Jews from Central Europe together with Yad Vashem, took place this time, 71 years after the event, on November 9, 2009, in Beit Theresienstadt. In addition to hundreds of members from all over Israel there were also young people from Germany, volunteers from “Aktion Suehnezeichen” – who work in Israel on social community projects, inter alia also at the senior’s home of the organization. Their representative Johanna Jaspersen promised visibly moved, in a trembling voice, not to forget and to act for the historic memory. Dozens of high school students, present at the ceremony, brought a note of optimism and hope.
The director of Beit Theresienstadt Oded Breda opened the event; he stressed the unique character of the house that is focused on day-to-day life of the ghetto prisoners in all its facets: work, crowding, lack of privacy, helplessness, transports, fear, hunger, disease and death. On the other side the wide ranging educational and artistic activity and the creative organization and management of the ghetto. Yaakov Hirsch, one of the senior members of the organization, called for deepening of commemoration and preservation of the heritage, activities the organization is engaged in day after day.
The former Knesset member Colette Avital concluded the first part of the meeting. She defined “Kristallnacht” as a turning point in the Nazi’s approach to the Jews of Germany: from then on propaganda and legislation were replaced by a policy of terror and physical assault. This form of official and public violence, clothed in a veil of order and law, became from then on the focus of the Nazi policy towards Jews, whose most extreme expression became the attempt to annihilate all of Europe’s Jews some 3 years later. Benny Haendel was the moderator; he also recited the prayer “El Male Rahamim” in memory of the destroyed communities. Avraham Frank recited the “Kaddish” and Tova Seliger lighted a candle. Tzvi Cohen from kibbutz Maabarot concluded the memorial ceremony with the touching story of his harmonica that saved him and his parents.
In the second part of the event the historian Dr. Margalit Shlain lectured on “From Kristallnacht to the model ghetto Theresienstadt” and Michael Tal from the Yad Vashem museum spoke about “Celebration of the Jewish Holidays in Ghetto Theresienstadt”.
Afterwards the participants visited the exhibitions of Beit Theresienstadt.