We Must Remember and Learn from the Horrific ‘Night of Broken Glass’

The world must never forget the horrors of the Holocaust during World War II. An orthodox Jewish leader reveals how the violence of anti-Semitism persists today.

By Jonathan Feldstein Published on November 9, 2018

This week marks the 80th anniversary of one of the single most infamous anti-Semitic days in history. Observing and understanding this anniversary is more critical in the wake of the anti-Semitic Pittsburgh massacre.

Hatred of Jews is sadly not new. Yet one thing new today is the solidarity among Jews and Christians standing united against anti-Semitism. By contrast, in the 1930s, many church leaders openly supported the rise of Nazi anti-Semitism.

What Was the Night of Broken Glass?

On November 9, 1938, a national pogrom swept through Germany known as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. This was egged on by five years of increased rabid anti-Semitism, sanctioned and inspired by the ruling Nazis. More than 1,000 synagogues were destroyed. Some 7,500 Jewish businesses were burned and looted.

Conservative estimates are that more than 100 Jews were murdered (some say 1,500), and many more were beaten. More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps. Even the deceased did not escape the pogrom. Many Jewish cemeteries were desecrated.

The Nazis’ hatred was known, but by 1938 they had not come up with the Final Solution — the systematic attempt to murder all the Jews of Europe. There is well-documented evidence that the Nazis tested the waters with the progressive implementation of increased anti-Semitic propaganda and hate. This was codified in the racist 1935 Nuremburg laws, and actions behind them like Kristallnacht. They watched the world’s tepid response and concluded that they could deal with the Jews as they wished.

There were muted protests and news reports of the violence. Yet the world was largely silent to the plight of German Jews. This emboldened the Nazis to continue their plotting against European Jewry. Nazis and anti-Semites around the world were also emboldened. It fanned the flames of hatred in their own communities by seeing how easy it was to persecute Jews with no substantive outcry.

Taking a Stand

Today, the world is at a similar juncture. Today, however, there is a Jewish state. Also, there has been a flourishing of Christian love for Israel and the Jewish people. This has turned on its head the theology of “the church” just eight decades ago.

Many Christians today see the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel as God fulfilling His promise. Yet Israel has become a lightning rod, and excuse for, increased anti-Semitism.

Some 80 years ago, many Christians openly stood against the Jews. Today, Christians stand with Israel and the Jews. The difference could not be more profound.

What brings us to a similar juncture today as we were in 1938? Then it was the complete acceptance of anti-Semitism and how that became synonymous with German nationalism. This godless ideology was rooted in racial hatred that contradicted God’s creating humans in His image. It’s inconceivable that any “church” supported this. But they did.

Normalizing Anti-Semitism

Today, we are subject to the normalization of anti-Semitism on many fronts. First and foremost, regarding Israel. Israel’s existence has been challenged and threatened every day for the past 70 years. Anti-Semitic hatred is espoused by its Arab and Islamic neighbors. They literally delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. They do so by literally dehumanizing Jews.

Like the Nazis, they do so by upending the Bible and creating a theology of hate. There are many who decry the anti-Semitic threats Israel faces. Yet, for many, anti-Semitic targeting Jews in Israel is considered normal or even legitimate. Even former U.S. presidents like Jimmy Carter have jumped on this bandwagon.

Today, we are subject to the normalization of anti-Semitism on many fronts. First and foremost, Israel’s existence has been challenged and threatened every day for the past 70 years.

Anti-Semitism has become “normal” as an outgrowth of many organizations that exist ostensibly to fight for rights of Palestinian Arabs. But in fact, they unleash vile anti-Semitism throughout the U.S. and across the West. It’s gotten so bad that Jewish students on campus are harassed and threatened. That’s become perfectly normal. Anti-Semites are allowed to spread their hatred publicly without any substantive challenges.

In addition, beyond the familiar Arab anti-Semites and terror groups, many repugnant anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan, Linda Sarsour, and others make a living by targeting Jews. Of course, this is a problem. But worse is the normalization of their anti-Semitic views by people who should know better.

Former presidents Clinton and Obama shamelessly allowed their photos to be taken together with Farrakhan, as have Maxine Waters and others. Anti-Semitic groups such as “Students for Justice in Palestine” or the BDS movement, the U.S. Women’s March, and even Ben and Jerry’s each promote its new flavor. The list goes on and on.

Combating Anti-Semitism

Edmund Burke’s remark has been repeated by many. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” he said.

What’s a good person to do? Call out and delegitimize anti-Semites and those who provide support for these haters. Do not universalize or simplify anti-Semitism just as another form of hate or “violent extremism.” We need steadfast resolve, not intersectionality.

In the wake of Pittsburgh, many Christian friends are asking why, how, what can I do? Prayer is first and foremost. But prayer alone is not enough. It needs to be followed by actions and a stand.

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Recently, two colleges on opposite coasts have had the hubris to host anti-Semitic speakers without shame. Some are calling for protest. Some are calling for legal action. Others want federal and state funds to be withheld. All I know is that these cannot be allowed to pass without a direct challenge.

The same way that the Nazis watched the world’s response, today’s anti-Semites are emboldened by lukewarm resolutions and Facebook status posts. Lack of response puts a wind in their sails. We must let the wind out now. Then, in the future, others will not have the forum much less hubris to spew their hatred.

All Is Not Lost

All is not lost. I was inspired this week visiting with a pastor from the U.S. who had come to lead an interfaith tour. We were talking about Pittsburgh and I mentioned something about early anti-Semitism being rooted in replacement theology of the early church. He had never heard of replacement theology.

Our conversation progressed regarding modern forms of anti-Semitism. I mentioned how BDS and SJP mask their purported claims to stand with Palestinian Arabs, but in fact are feeding grounds for overt anti-Semitism. He had never heard of BDS or SJP.

In the face of outrageous anti-Semitism, how will you stand with the Jewish people? Please share your comments, suggestions and heart with me. I would like to be able to share with others.


Jonathan Feldstein lives in Israel with his family. On November 14, he will speak about combating anti-Semitism at an interfaith event in Orlando, Florida. Explore The Stream’s coverage of Israel and related issues.

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