As Muslims and Jews, we remember Kristallnacht
Avi Benlolo and Mohammad Tawhidi: Approximately 91 Jews were murdered and hundreds injured over the span of 24 hours, although some argue the numbers were much higher
Author of the article: Avi Benlolo and Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, National Post Nov 09, 2020 • Last Updated 1 hour ago • 4 minute read
It’s often said that the Holocaust began on Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. The world had already turned upside down for German Jews, with increasing laws and regulations against them imposed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party. The hate and incitement directed against the Jewish community came to a head on the evening of Nov. 9, 1938 — 82 years ago.
In a two-day spree, Nazi storm troopers, Hitler Youth and ordinary German citizens participated in the destruction of some 267 synagogues and the plundering of an estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses, schools and community centres. About 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps — what would be the start of many mass deportations. Approximately 91 Jews were murdered and hundreds injured over the span of 24 hours, although some argue the numbers were much higher. On Nov. 11, 1938, the Times of London reported that, “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenceless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.”
The famous quote that would foreshadow future events in Germany — “Wherever they burn books, in the end (they) will also burn human beings” — was written by Heinrich Heine in 1827. An assimilated German Jew, Heine converted to Protestantism in order to be published and accepted by the German intelligentsia. Despite his wishful thinking, copies of his books would be burned in the 1933 Nazi book burnings of Jewish intellectual works.
Book burnings, which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels said was proof that “the era of extreme Jewish intellectualism (is) now at an end,” would transform hateful rhetoric into consecutive phases of violence: Kristallnacht, ghettoization and genocide.
By 1938, Germany was on the road to self-disgrace. It wasn’t enough for the national socialist party to make its Jewish citizens a pariah of the state through marginalization, isolation, ridicule, shame and street violence. The worst part of it all was that no one spoke up. No one spoke out. Ordinary people participated in silence in this dehumanizing process that would lead to the greatest shame humanity has ever known.
We stand before the Almighty on this day of broken glass and cry out over the horrific behaviour on that night and the subsequent nights that led to the murder of six million Jewish children, women and men. Like the shattered glass of that night and the destroyed dreams of countless victims, we feel broken. We stand before you, therefore, as a Muslim and a Jew who have come together in brotherhood to renounce terror and hate.
Our mutual obsession is to ensure that nothing like the Shoah ever happens again — to anyone. From these lessons, we examine our relationship with each other and with the world today. Five years ago, the world witnessed the Islamic State conquer strategic parts of the Middle East and expand its caliphate at an unprecedented speed. Its adherents pillaged, raped and murdered anyone they disliked, including the Yazidis, and changed the face of the region. We have seen the horrible gassing of civilians in Syria and the slaughter of innocents in France.
During the last decade, and amidst this chaos, which contributed to the existing conflicts in the region, groups of interfaith activists and prominent individuals were preaching about a peaceful future and a brighter tomorrow. For many people, these events were nothing more than entertainment and an opportunity to socialize. Little did we know that peace was right around the corner. It will soon become a lived reality.
Today, it is safe to say that the Abraham Accords are only the beginning. The warm peace agreements and positive developments in the Middle East are bringing the children of Abraham together after a long period of unnecessary conflict. What makes this peace unique is that it is not just establishing peace on a political and diplomatic level, it is establishing it on a human level, as well.
Who would’ve imagined that Muslim-majority countries would one day back the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, and then be followed by the largest council of Sunni and Shiite Muslim clerics? Or that the Albanian parliament would endorse the definition, making it the first Muslim-majority country to formally adopt it?
This groundbreaking peace movement throughout the Middle East is calling for an end to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. For far too long, anti-Semitism has played a leading role in this region, much of it emanating from Nazi ideology — Hitler’s Mein Kampf is still regularly found in local shops and anti-Semitic materials are often sold at book fairs. That’s why we are proud that the Global Imams Council, which represents some1,000 imams, has formally adopted the IHRA definition.
The definition is crucial because it provides contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life. In order to truly achieve peace, we must eliminate the sources of extremism and terrorism. In recent years, attacks on Jewish synagogues and individuals have been formally classified as terrorist attacks that stem from hatred towards Jews — in other words, they were anti-Semitic attacks.
It’s time for us to stop the delegitimization of Israel and the Jewish people at the United Nations. As Muslims, we believe that every Jew has the right to visit and worship at her or his holy site on the Temple Mount. As Jews, we want to make peace with the Arab world and invite all Muslims to visit their holy places in Israel. We want to build a future of hope over despair, of friendship over animosity and of respect and understanding over hate and intolerance.
Kristallnacht was a failure of humanity. It opened the door to a horrific genocide. We believe that if we stand together in unity, we can prevent future atrocities. National Post