In memorium


Today, seventy-one years ago, there was a turning point in one of the most tremendous and systemic acts of cruelty of the 20th century: The Reich orchestrated riots against the ghettos in a wave of brutality commonly known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, or as it is preferred to be referred to by the Germans, the “November pogrom.”

The National Holocaust Memorial Museum writes: 

 Encouraged by the Nazi regime, the rioters burned or destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized or looted 7,500 Jewish businesses, and killed at least 91 Jewish people.

Coincidentally, the date of the attacks was meant to coincide with the birthday of Martin Luther, who prescribed many of the tactics used that night:

What shall we Christians do now with this depraved adn damned people of the Jews?…I will give [Christians] my faithful advice: First that one shall set fire to their synagogues…Then that one should also break down adn destory their homes…That one should drive them out of the country. (Translated by Walter Kaufmann from Samliche Schriften, St. Louis, 1881-1910, xx, 1989 ff)

 Which is not to indict contemporary Lutherans, who are on the whole free of their founder’s unforgivable sentiments. One imagines had Luther not written that polemic, he still would have been put to work by the Nazis, as were most great figures of German arts, from to Goethe to Hegel to Wagner, though the latter would likely have welcomed it. Even Nietzsche, who committed so much ink to disparaging militarism, nationalism, especially racialist German nationalism, lifelong “anti-anti-Semite,” whose last lucid sentence committed to paper was “I am just now having all anti-Semites shot,” was made an idol to the death-machine. Such was the regime’s contempt for truth.

The co-opting and whitewashing of national literature by the Nazis isdiscussed in some contemporary essays by Jorge Louis Borges, notably 1937’s  A pedagogy of hatred and 1938’s A disturbing exposition, and by E.M. Forster in his 1940 essays Three Anti-Nazi Broadcasts.

I lament culture when I should mourn lives; but I find it hard to condemn myself for raising my own ire against the dead hulk of Nazism and the tendancies behind it for any reason.

I extend my sympathies to any who still bear memories of that day, firsthand or second hand, and who still live under the legacy of the West’s anti-Judaism.


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