Educating students on Kristallnacht to prevent repeating history

By Felicia Roehm

On Nov. 9, the Julius and Dorothy Koppelman Holocaust/Genocide Resource Center of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion will remember the brutal anti-Jewish acts that happened 84 years ago. For 48 hours, violent behavior broke loose in Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia by mobs urged by antisemitic Nazi officials.

The Nazis named this day Kristallnacht, which means “The Night of Broken Glass.” They demolished synagogues and destroyed Jewish religious artifacts, and homes and businesses were in ruin. The word Kristallnacht refers to the thousands of broken windows seen all around the streets.

On Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., Mercer County Community College is hosting a Zoom event called, “Warnings: Kristallnacht Then and Now” that students must register to attend. The event will feature professors from Mercer County Community College and special guest Dr. John K. Roth, a philosophy professor from Claremont McKenna College. The event will include discussing and paying respect to that day in history.

A second event is taking place at Esther Raab Holocaust Museum and Goodwin Education Center in Cherry Hill on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., with home movie footage from 1938 called “Three Minutes A Lengthening” shown.

The footage is mostly in color and portrays the only known remaining images of Jews in Nasielsk, Poland. The producer’s grandfather recorded the film, and there will be a discussion about how he identified the people and places that were abolished from history. The film was co-produced by Steve McQueen who directed “12 Years a Slave,” and narrated by actress Helena Bonham Carter. This event is completely free.

Howard Joffe, a professor at Rider and faculty fellow of the Julius and Dorothy Koppelman Holocaust/Genocide Resource Center, says that there are not enough people educated about Kristallnacht, and he hopes that those who attend these events will learn how what has happened in the past can be similar to what’s happening in the world today.

“I hope they are sensing the possibility of parallels in the world today,” said Joffe. He expressed hopes that attendees can learn about tolerance, intolerance and what actions and ideologies can start a disaster.

Kristallnacht occurred right before WWII began in 1939, and Joffe explained that these moments in history could have been prevented. Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and 1.5 million of them were children. Joffe explained that many innovations and discoveries were lost due to the number of children who were killed.

Joffe said, “25% of Nobel Prizes go to Jewish people, and all that stuff was gone, it was obliterated.”

Joffe expressed the feeling that many people don’t know about Kristallnacht and that more should be taught about it. He said, “You don’t have to be Jewish to pay attention to the Holocaust.” The same sentiment stands for being informed about Kristallnacht.

Professor Scott Alboum has been practicing Judaism his entire life and went to Hebrew school three days a week until he was 13 years old. Alboum also thinks education is one of the best ways to prevent history from repeating itself.

“With the rise of antisemitism in the U.S., we must focus on educating everyone about the past,” said Alboum.

Alboum’s family came to the United States from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, but he believes that some of his family never left Europe and likely didn’t survive the Holocaust. Knowing this when he learned about Kristallnacht for the first time made him incredibly upset, but Alboum believes that everyone is important when making change.

He said, “We all play a role in making sure that history does not repeat itself. We must educate and preach tolerance of all religions so that this never happens again.”

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