Kristallnacht: “Night of Broken Glass” 9 Nov 1938

On the evening of November 9-10, 1938, the German Reich unleashed a pogrom against the Jews, burning down synagogues and smashing the glass fronts of Jewish shops in Berlin and all big cities in Germany and Austria. The pogrom was allegedly in retaliation for the assassination of a German diplomat at the German Embassy in Paris by the 17-year old Herschel Grynszpan.

To describe it, the Nazis coined the phrase Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass. On that night 91 Jews were killed, 30.000 Jews sent to Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg concentration camps. 5.000 Jewish shops were looted, 191 synagogues attacked, bonfires made of Torah scrolls, prayer books and volumes of Jewish history, philosophy and poetry. This action was a signal event whose importance in the history of the Shoah or Holocaust, as it is also called, is that it represents the shift from mass arrest and terror to mass murder. From the time of Kristallnacht onwards, the momentum of the Holocaust gathered force and led to the wholesale persecution and the killing of six million Jews including one and a half million children.

The Night of Broken Glass was crucial in the movement towards the Final Solution, a systematic programme of genocide, which was designed to annihilate every Jew in Europe. Soon would be added the deaths of millions of civilians, service men and women and partisans during WW II.

Australian story
An Aboriginal man, William Cooper, was the only person to stage a private protest against the Nazi persecution of the Jews. An important piece of history.

(from a service in New South Wales)
We remember a night of darkness and fear that swept the heartland of Christian Europe like a scourge. We remember those who were persecuted. Jews for being Jews. We remember those who spoke out, brave souls who tried to save a world.

And we remember the silence! How many stood aside, mute and unconcerned forgetting the divine command: “You shall not stand idle while your neighbour bleeds.”

For the sin of silence,
For the sin of indifference,
For the secret complicity of the neutral,
For the closing of borders,
For the washing of hands from blame,
For the crime of forgetfulness,
For the sin of meaningless rhetoric,
Let there be no forgetfulness before God, and let memory startle us at any moment, when we lie down and when we rise up. Let us remember and never forget.

Golden crystal hope – a blessing to go
Hope is the gold we melt and pour
between the crystal pieces, shattered,
smatterings and scatterings beneath our feet.
Tread carefully, hold gently the shards,
bear the wounds the healing cuts.
Offer the sacred price for peace, to mend
the broken crystal at our feet.
May the Holy bless us as we go, in peace. Amen

Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story. Written for the commemoration of 80 years since Kristallnacht, the state-sanctioned demolishing of Jewish synagogues, schools, homes, and businesses in Germany and Austria; written for the interfaith gathering hosted by The Canberra Jewish Centre and Wesley Uniting Church, 7 November 2018, at which was premiered the work by Elena Kats-Chernin, ‘To Mend Broken Crystal…’, which inspired this blessing.

Lest we forget – Kristallnacht
I wonder
Who swept up the glass
The morning after Kristallnacht?
And the morning after that?
And where did they put it
And what’s become of it?
Sharp edges worn off
Sand again, perhaps?
Risking being blasted into glass
That could one day
be smashed into
slicing slithereens
There is always that risk
But it’s so beautifully soft
Warm between the toes
on a summer’s by-the
And as window
protects the view of the trees
when the cold wind blows
How fast we don’t need to know
behind a shield of
translucent crystal
magically refracting rainbows
thrown across
the floor
the wall
your eye
What did they talk about while they swept the glass?
About the weather
or the Praktisch Strategien to deal with such a lot of sharp mess
or what the bride wore to the wedding the evening before?
Did they mention the terror?
I guess they didn’t know then that 90% of Jewish children in Europe would be murdered come the end of this. Have we, come to the end of this?
Or did they not say anything of much at all?
In the little village by the river where my Oma was from
Sweeping out and in, out and then right out
Or did the ‘not saying of anything much at all’ only come later
with the landing in Australia
and the Enkelkinder coming along
who would go on
and write school assignments
of family histories
that would sweep so far away from brooms
that I have only just begun to conjure the possibility of them at all
dancing here
on the lands of the Gadigal people
this morning
81 years on
Brooms swept
Tears wept
As we try to not allow ourselves to be too deeply cut
to be able to get up
and do it all again tomorrow
maybe even by the beach
(Source: Sonia Hoffman, 10 November 2019 – a Facebook post)

Reading from the Prophet Ezechiel 37:1-14

Leader: Let us now remember as we are able, in silence.

(At the end of 2 minutes of silence, glass will be broken)

God, we remember.
We remember the Night of Broken Glass.
We remember the burning of synagogues.
We remember the looting of schools.
We remember the destruction of orphanages.
We remember the arrests, the deportations, the deaths.

God, we pray. We pray that with the breaking of this glass, our hearts may be broken in love and reconciliation. We pray that with the burning of the synagogues we too might burn with commitment to ensure that this never happens again. We pray that with the looting of schools, we too are pillaged of false pride and nameless fear, so that we might stand up for our neighbour. We pray that with the destruction of orphanages, hatred and oppression may be forever destroyed and the innocent be protected. We pray that those who suffered might teach us the enormity of silence in the face of injustice. God, hear us we pray.

(The Kaddish is the Jewish prayer which is recited during the period of mourning and on every anniversary of a deceased member of a Jewish family or community. It prays that God may establish His kingdom of peace in the world.)

Yitgadal veyitkadash shemay rabba (Amen), b’alma div’ra chirutay veyamlich malchutay bechayechon uv’yomechon uv’chayay di chol bet Yisrael, ba’agala uviz’man kariv- v’imru Amen. Yehay shemay rabba mevorach l’alam ul’almay almaya.

Yitbarach veyishtabach veyitpa’ar veyitromam veyitnasay veyit’hadar veyitalay veyit’halal shemay di kudsha – Berich Hu- l’ayla min kol birchaata veshiratat tushbechata venechemata di amiran b’alma-v’imru Amen. Yehay shelama rabba min shemaya vechayim alaynu v’al kol Yisrael-v’imru Amen.

Osay shalom bimromav hu ya’aseh shalom v’al kol Yisrael-v’imru Amen.

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which he has created according to his will. May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon: and say Amen. May his great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honoured, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be he beyond all the blessings and hymns, praised and consolation that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel: and say, Amen. He who creates peace in his celestial heights, may he create peace for us and for all Israel: and say, Amen. Choral Items

Let us pray that we will be people of compassion who will make a space for the other. We share the world”s horror at the tragic loss of life resulting from terrorism in the world. Together we mourn for the victims and grieve with those whose loss is so great. As people of faith we pray for peace and call on world leaders to respond by seeking justice, not revenge. May the God of peace protect us all.

Shofar: The shofar is sounded.

A prayer
Great God, from the very beginning of our human story we are reminded of how we can do violence to our brother and sister. Cain kills his brother Abel and the blood of Abel cries out to you for remembrance and action. And you do act, and we do remember.
What was the reason of Cain? What allowed him to attack his only brother with whom he lived and spoke? How could this have happened? Yet it did happen, and it continued to happen, and it happens in our own day.
We gather here today to remember a time when hatred drove brother and sister against brother and sister. The damage of homes, businesses and sacred places was as nothing compared to the taking of human life and human dignity. And this action marked a step toward greater and more horrible sibling destruction.
We remember, Lord, and in remembering we face a frightful truth about ourselves. Yet, there is another truth. Before the murder, Cain is warned that “sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it” (Gen 4:7). We recognize the possibility of violence in ourselves, but we can also be men and women who choose peace and fraternal love. We are promised your help to rule over the darkness which seeks to reign within us.
We remember today, O Merciful God, our brothers and sisters who have died because of sibling hatred. We ask that you bring these innocents to yourself and
welcome them at your table. And we ask that you enable us to learn the terrible lessons of our past and allow them to teach us the path of peaceful coexistence for the future.
We make this prayer as your beloved children, all of us. Amen.
(Source:Fr Patrick Griffin, Torchline)

Stars littered the ground
Crystal fire
Shards of ice
The smoke of a thousand thousand years
Coiling upwards, twisted
With the memory of a People
Chosen once in light
Chosen again
In darkness
In ashes and in blood
Pounding rhythms shout out
Felt through soles
Driving forward, driving onward
Faster and faster and faster, and pulled forward
Pulled ever onward
In a rush, at a run, rippling in shadow
It invades your blood,
That rhythm,
That pulse,
That pull and push
That wraps ‘round your heart
In pounding and pulsing rhymes
That cradle your source
Your soul
The darkness swallows the cries
Of a thousand thousand lights
A thousand thousand years
A thousand thousand sighs
Of love
Of hope
Of God
Leaving only broken glass
And crystal fire
And glistening stars to lead us
(Stacey Zisook Robinson, Reform Judaism)

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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