In light of the current Coronavirus pandemic, this year's 82nd anniversary for The November Pogrom was conducted virtually. The Presidents of Israel, Germany and Austria in cooperation with Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, marked this occasion with an event which took place in the Residence of the President of the State of Israel H.E. Reuven "Ruvi" Rivlin. Chairman of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau participated in this event.
The following are the remarks of Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev:
"Your Excellency Mr. President,
As Germany slid, starting in 1933, toward the abyss, the Kristallnacht Pogrom came eventually to pass, in November 1938. It was the most violent and extensive occurrence directed against the Jews until then.
This brutal pogrom was facilitated not only by the widespread and deep-rooted popular antisemitism that was rampant in Germany and Austria among nearly all sectors of the population, but also because the Nazi regime wanted it to happen, and acted purposefully to organize, operate and intensify what transpired.
From the very start of their rule, the Nazis strove persistently to eradicate the moral and normative "brakes" of measured social interaction, and to replace them with other "norms" – based upon dictatorial authority and tyranny.
They perceived the Jews as symbols and agents of Western morality, which limited and "weakened" the German nation. Thus, they were Germany's enemy, destined to be eliminated, along with their culture.
On Kristallnacht, any gates of morality still remaining in German society were ruptured, leaving the Jews, alone and unaided, to face encroaching and overpowering forces of destruction and hatred.
With frightening force, the Nazis succeeded during Kristallnacht in overturning two principal foundations of identity and existence, essential for the Jews, as for any collective human community: the spiritual foundation of faith, represented by the synagogues and Torah scrolls that were desecrated and burned; and the material foundation of economic security, represented by the businesses, shops and factories owned by Jews, and other frameworks in which they were employed, which were attacked, looted and defaced during and following the pogrom.
By shattering the windows of the Jews, and torching places and artifacts sacred to them, the Nazis sought – and in fact succeeded – in shattering the essential distinctions between the permissible and the forbidden. These are the very distinctions upon which human civilization and social justice are based.
All this occurred in a country that was supposedly "advanced" – technologically, culturally and structurally.
As we recall, yearly and year-round, those severe and fateful events, as well as the victims and even the perpetrators, we are engaged in enhancing the empowering, fortifying effect of remembrance.
The flames in 1938 were lit in order to demolish the Jews' places of worship and business. The lights that we kindle tonight, in synagogues throughout Israel and around the world, symbolize the continuity of our constructive, enlightening way of life."
For more information and personal stories about the events of "Kristallnacht" please visit Yad Vashem's online exhibition, "The November Pogrom 9-10 November 1938"