Looking Back: Broken Glass
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History)

Over the years, there have been announcements of memorials for and many feature articles about Kristallnacht in the JN.

For many years, memorials for Kristallnacht have been held in Detroit and around the world. I was reminded of this while reading a recent issue of the JN. There was a notice: the “March of the Living” encouraged the commemoration of Kristallnacht by inviting “individuals, institutions and houses of worship” around the world to keep their lights on during the night of Nov. 9 as a token of remembrance.

Most of us know the story of Kristallnacht. In English, “Crystal Night,” or more to the point, “the Night of Broken Glass,” refers to the extreme antisemitic violence in Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938. Hordes of brown-shirted Nazis and their civilian supporters went on a rampage, beating and arresting more than 30,000 Jews, leaving an estimated 7,000 Jewish businesses and 267 synagogues in ruins. The shards of broken glass that glittered in the streets led to the descriptor of “Kristallnacht.” This was a major step along the path to the Holocaust.

Looking back: Broken Glass
William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History

I decided to see what I could find on Kristallnacht in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History. To say the least, the event has never been forgotten. Over the years, there have been announcements of memorials for and many feature articles about Kristallnacht in the JN. 

The first reports in the Detroit Jewish Chronicle were contemporary, before Kristallnacht was a widely used term. The first use of the term that I found in the Archive was in Editor Philip Slomovitz’s “Purely Commentary” column in the JN on May 13, 1961. 

Looking back: Broken Glass
William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History

However, the antisemitic event was heavily covered in the Chronicle, beginning on Nov. 11, 1938, with a “New Wave of Anti-Semitism In Germany and France as Result of Shooting of Nazi Official.” There were similar headlines over the next two months. For example, on Nov. 18, 1938, was “Roosevelt Leads Outraged World in Registering Protest Against Persecution of Jews in Germany,” and on Dec. 30, “Breach Between U.S. and Germany Widens.” And, so on.

Unfortunately, all the reports and condemnations of Nazi antisemitism did not stop Hitler and his evil henchmen from perpetrating the Holocaust.

Looking Back: Broken Glass
William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History

Later feature articles in the JN, while decidedly somber, were more encouraging. They show that Detroit Jews have not forgotten their history. Indeed, many Detroiters had firsthand experience. Some of them were able to get out of Germany soon after Kristallnacht; others were survivors of both Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. 

On the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Andrea Jolles wrote “A Night Burned In History” (Nov. 4, 1988 JN). The cover article for the Nov. 10, 2000 JN, “Broken Glass, Broken Dreams,” is about Marianne Wildstorm’s efforts to help Shoah victims with restitution. For the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Esther Allweiss Ingber wrote about survivors sharing memories in “Night of Broken Glass” (Nov. 7, 2013 JN).

Looking Back: Broken Glass

Many obituaries note those who survived Kristallnacht and made their way to Detroit. One that caught my eye was for cantor Harold Orbach, “Temple Israel’s Beloved Voice,” in the April 24, 2014, issue of the JN. It related that he and his brother had escaped Nazi Germany after Kristallnacht. 

Kristallnacht will always stand as an example of extreme antisemitism and mob rule. The memory of that night is kept alive in the William Davidson Archive.  

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

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