Synagogue from Einbeck Germany. Attacked during Kristallnacht 1938. From Kristallnacht In Einbeck, 2005 a movie produced by Einbeck, Keene’s partner city, for the 2005 Kristallnacht Remembrance.
The Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies has chosen to focus on this event as an annual community-wide commemoration. The Remembrance brings the entire Keene community together in a remarkable way and enables participants to actively reflect upon the lessons of the Holocaust. Community leaders, educators, visiting scholars, and area schools participate in this solemn occasion. The Remembrance is coordinated by Keene State College, Keene High School, Keene Middle School, the Keene Interfaith Clergy Association, as well as community institutions such as city government, police, and fire.
Sponsors include the Keene Interfaith Clergy Association; KSC Campus Ministry, Congregation Ahavas Achim, and the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Planning at Keene State College.
The Remembrance is held in the heart of the community in downtown Keene and is free to the public. It allows greater accessibility and roots the event as a community experience. Church bells toll across the city as single remembrance candles are displayed in storefronts.
Though commemorative, the goal is to encourage awareness, community service, and human rights activism. Keynote speakers have included 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; and 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.
We Remember Kristallnacht
After more than five years of Nazi power and persecution, the Kristallnacht pogrom was unleashed on the evening of November 9, 1938. The passivity with which most German civilians responded to the violence signaled to the Nazi regime that the German public was prepared for more radical measures and proved to be an essential turning point in Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews.
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 remember that Jews were not just victims but people filled with life and hope, worthy of respect.
We remember in order to face the Nazi practice of evil of the Nazi universe that divided human beings into Uber and Untermenschen, those worthy of life and those condemned to slavery and murder.
We remember that communities collaborated with the Nazis and therefore recognize our responsibility to care for others in our midst who might be overlooked or victimized in their circumstances.
We remember that individuals exercise choice when perpetrating evil on their neighbors.
We remember so that individuals may refuse to become perpetrators, bystanders, or collaborators.
We remember that how a society cares for and maintains its historical memory reflects its compassion toward the living.
Therefore, we remember Kristallnacht to remind ourselves and others to care for one another and be a community in which respect and justice thrive.
On January 30, 1933 Adolf Hitler is appointed chancellor of Germany. Persecution begins immediately in the name of a Nazi worldview that divides human beings into those worthy of life and those condemned to slavery and murder. Nazism, with its appeal to nationalistic fervor and ideology of blame, seems attractive and empowering to many Germans facing the trauma and ambiguity of life in the aftermath of the First World War. The Nazis target many minorities (including political, social, economic, and so-called "racial" groups) whose mere diversity undermines Hitler's ability to accumulate power and pursue his utopian racial fantasies. German Jews, less than 1% of the population, are loyal and patriotic citizens whose community stretches back almost 2000 years. Although many have served their country in the First World War, the Nazi fantasy identifies them, above all others, as THE enemy.
Until 1938, although widespread and often violent, persecution of Jews varies depending upon where one lives and has yet to be centrally coordinated. By 1938, Jews have lost their German citizenship and anti-Jewish laws are isolating Jews from their German neighbors, forcing them out of their professions, and not allowing them to attend German schools or play on German sports teams. Jews respond by creating their own schools, sports teams, social activities, and many retrain for jobs that would allow for possible future emigration.
As foreign-born Jews are being forcibly deported, many German Jews try to remain loyal to the country of their birth. Emigration is difficult as many countries have placed limits on the number of refugees they will accept. Many Jews are trying to leave, others are attempting to make the best of a bad situation and hope that this dark chapter will pass quickly.
Reality changes drastically on the night of November 9, 1938, as the Nazi leadership unleashes the November pogrom, known as Kristallnacht. Shattered are any false hopes that a Nazi government is somehow temporary and tolerable. The passivity with which most German civilians respond to the violence signals to the Nazi regime that the German public is prepared for more radical measures. It is an essential turning point in Nazi Germany's persecution of Jews.
The Lighting of the Candles
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.