Kristallnacht remembered on the Quad

By Meghan O'Kelly

Gusting winds may have blown out candles on the Quad Wednesday evening, but the conditions did not darken the spirit of those gathered to commemorate the beginning of the Holocaust.

A group of about 25 stood in a circle to remember Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass,” at 5:15 p.m. The night of Nov. 7 to 8, 1938 marked the beginning of the Holocaust, as the Nazis sanctioned widespread destruction against Jews in both Germany and Austria.

“I think by memorializing this night, we’re going right back to the beginning,” said Melissa Cohen, a University alumna and the Jewish Student Leadership Coordinator at Hillel Foundation.

Avi Buchbinder, senior in LAS and the Hillel Student Leadership co-president, explained Kristallnacht is often overlooked because of Holocaust Remembrance Day, a national holiday in April on the anniversary of the 1943 Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. He said Holocaust Remembrance Day’s purpose is to memorialize the entire Holocaust, while the focus of Wednesday’s program was on Kristallnacht and its significance as the beginning of the Holocaust.

“This night marks more of a somber foreboding of the beginning of the bad events,” Buchbinder said.

Gail Schnitzer, freshman in LAS, attended the event and said if she were back home Wednesday night, she would have been at a service at her synagogue. She attended the service because two of her grandparents were in Berlin on Kristallnacht and escaped the oppression of the Jews shortly thereafter.

“Sadly, I think this day is too often forgotten,” Schnitzer said.

The Hillel Foundation traditionally pays tribute to Kristallnacht.

Education Committee co-chair Jessica Cavanagh, senior in LAS, said this year’s program was larger than in the past. In keeping with the theme of remembrance and understanding, she said the aim of the memorial was to inform campus about what happened that night and keep anything like it from occurring in the future.

“We want to bring awareness to campus and show that it can’t happen to just one group of people,” Cavanagh said. “It can happen to other groups of people and has throughout history.”

Avi agreed and cited Sudan and Rwanda as modern examples of how today’s world is not free of oppression.

“There are many events that remind us of the Holocaust all the time,” he said. “We live in a world where this stuff can happen, and we have to be aware of it. We have to know what the starting signs are and what we can do to act.”