Kristallnacht Commemoration Program
This annual event seeks to bring the community together to bear witness and recognize our responsibility to promote an active and informed citizenry, recognize individual and societal responsibility for each other, and foster mutual respect and justice.
The Commemoration is held in the heart of the community in downtown Keene’s Colonial Theatre and is framed within three themes, “We Remember”, “We Create”, “We Make a Difference.” It includes candle lighting; eyewitness testimony; participation by the mayor, police and fire chiefs of Keene; community groups such as MoCo Arts; and a candle recessional. The Commemoration is free and open to the public.
Though commemorative, the goal is to encourage awareness, community service, and human rights activism. Past speakers Keynote speakers have included:
- Michael Berenbaum, , Director of Sigi Ziering Institute, Professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University
- Congressman Tom Lantos and his wife Annette Lantos, rescued by Raoul Wallenberg
- Pierre Sauvage, Le Chambon Foundation;
- Gerhard Weinberg, the 2001 Shapiro Senior Scholar in Residence at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.,
- Dr. Hans Heilbronner, survivor and eyewitness to Kristallnacht
- Marion Pritchard, Dutch Rescuer and Yad Vashem recognized "Righteous Among the Nations"
- Warren Priest, Liberator of Dachau and Buchenwald and founder of the "Buchenwald and Beyond Foundation"
- Sibylle Niemoeller von Sell, widow of Pastor Martin Niemoeller
- Dr. Martin Rumscheidt, theologian
- Peter Eisenstadter, second generation survivor
The event illustrates how the Center confronts contemporary issues of genocide, injustice, and bigotry through the memory of the Holocaust and has served as a model for other communities wishing to commemorate these events. It also acts as an example of how the Center brings eyewitness testimony to the people of New Hampshire.
We end with the statement "Always ready to help," or, in French, "Toujours prêt à servir" as a reminder of the Righteous in Le Chambon sur Lignon and other villages in the Haute-Loire region of France who during the darkness of the Shoah showed the courage and necessity to care.
We do this in order to awaken in human beings the need to recognize the preciousness of life and its value to all of us. We do this to fulfill the mission of the Cohen Center to teach the facts and lessons of the Holocaust in order to motivate successive generations to recognize an ethical responsibility to respond to prejudice and hatred.
What Was Kristallnacht?
After more than five years of growing Nazi power and persecutions Kristallnacht was unleashed against Germany’s Jews on the evening of November 9, 1938. Although portrayed as a “spontaneous” action in response to the shooting of Ernst vom Rath in Paris two days earlier, the pogrom (violent mob attack generally against Jews) was planned well in advance, coordinated by the Nazi party's security apparatus and carried out by the SA, SS, and local Nazi party organizations. 267 synagogues were burned or destroyed, 7,500 Jewish businesses were vandalized or looted, and at least 91 Jewish people were killed. They also damaged many Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes as police and fire brigades stood aside. Kristallnacht also marked the beginning of mass deportations of Jews to concentration camps.
1938 had seen an intensified focus in anti-Jewish measures as the Nazis experimented with ways to “solve” the so-called “Jewish question” while preparing to unleash their European war for “race and space.” How could the Nazis move from antisemitic rhetoric and legislation to even more aggressive and violent measures? What might the dangers be in intensifying the attack on this German minority? What would the public stand for? The passivity with which most German civilians responded to the violence of 1938 signaled to the Nazis that the public was prepared for more radical measures and proved to be an essential threshold moment. After Kristallnacht the Nazi SS would assert control and help drive the German state and its collaborators to the Holocaust or Shoah (Hebrew, meaning Catastrophe).
The Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies advances the public liberal arts mission of Keene State College by studying and bearing witness to the Holocaust and genocide. The Cohen Center joins the campus community and its many partners in promoting an active and informed citizenry committed to mutual respect and justice.
Why We Remember
We remember that night as a moral obligation to the victims and the survivors as well as for ourselves, for the sake of our children, and for our community.
We recognize our responsibility to care for others in our midst who might be overlooked, targeted, or victimized in their circumstances.
We remember so that individuals may refuse to become perpetrators, “bystanders” or collaborators.
We remember in the hope that present and future generations take responsibility for building a world free of antisemitism, intolerance, and hate.
Therefore, we remember Kristallnacht to remind ourselves and others to care for one another and be a community in which compassion, respect and justice thrive.
To be read before the lighting of the first candle:
I light this Memorial Candle as we recall with bitter grief the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and to remember the countless Gypsies, handicapped, homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses, Poles, and others who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. May we never be numbed, indifferent or complacent to the magnitude of this horror. In honor of their memory, strengthen our commitment never to forget."
To be read before the lighting of the second candle:
I light this Memorial Candle in memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children whose lives were taken from them before they had had the opportunity to live. In their memory we commit ourselves to all our children and the world they inherit."
To be read before the lighting of the third candle:
I light this Memorial Candle in honor of those compassionate men and women who, at the risk of their own lives, saved Jews from the Holocaust. In the midst of the most frightening reality, they made room for their Jewish neighbors. May the memory of these righteous individuals guide to us in creating peace and justice."
To be read before the lighting of the fourth candle:
I light this Memorial Candle for all who have risked or given their lives on behalf of others. May the courage of people like Jonathan Daniels remind us of our responsibilities to one another and help us to build a community in which respect and justice thrive. May we never forget that when one of us is violated, each of us is wounded and all of us bear the burden."
Witnessing Kristallnacht: Stephan Lewy, child witness and survivor
Kristallnacht – A Night To Remember
The date was November 9, 1933; the place, a Jewish orphanage in Berlin, Germany. On that night, uniformed Nazi police herded all 100 children into the synagogue, severing the gas line fueling the eternal light and bolted the door from the outside, leaving the children to die. I was among those 100 children.
Fortunately, one of the older boys recognized our plight and threw a chair through the stained glass windows, releasing the deadly fumes and saving the lives of 100 children. This, of course, was Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which left 91 Jews dead, 30,000 incarcerated and 7,500 shops and 300 synagogues vandalized and destroyed. This destruction can best be described as the END OF THE BEGINNING and the BEGINNING OF THE END.
1938 – A Year I Will Not Forget
Just before the year 1938, Jewish and gentile students were segregated into separate school buildings. While we were provided with the same education, we had to deal with one additional problem. After school on most days, the Jewish students were forced to run a “gauntlet” of Hitler youth, who whipped us with their steel-buckled belts while the police stood by to make sure that we didn’t defend ourselves or fight back.
On my 13th birthday in 1938, I had my Bar Mitzvah at the orphanage synagogue, which consisted of a service and a small lunch. It should be noted that the service was attended by two Nazi secret service agents. They were wearing civilian clothes in order not to be identified. I can only guess that they wanted to make sure that neither the rabbi nor I should say anything against the government.
That evening we invited about 10 guests to my parents’ apartment for dinner. As we entered the apartment building, we were met by an SS Trooper, who arrested my father. We waited and waited, and as luck would have it, my father returned late that evening. Why the arrest? The German government decided to give each soldier who fought in WW I a medal. Why on this day did they choose to give him this medal? Why did it take 8 hours? The best gift for me was that he returned home unharmed.
The constant fear of loved ones being arrested and harmed and beatings was a heavy burden to carry. Should we forget what happened? Absolutely not. Should we remember? Of course we should, so that we make sure that this will never happen again.Download 2013 Program
Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Keene State College
229 Main Street
Keene, NH 03435-3201