Commemorating Kristallnacht or the November Pogrom
(Parts of this article are reprinted courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA))
The central figures in Marlboro Jewish Center’s Nov. 7 Kristallnacht commemoration were surprising to many: a North Carolina college basketball coach and his team.
Co-authors of “Unbracketed: Big Time College Basketball Done Right” took part in a panel moderated at the synagogue by MJC’s Rabbi Michael Pont. Their book begins with the story of Davidson College Basketball coach, Bob McKillop (Steph Curry’s coach when he played at Davidson). McKillop took his entire 2018 team on a journey to Auschwitz, where they met Holocaust survivor, Eva Mozes Kor.
Coach McKillop’s interest, Rabbi Pont explains, was far more than just wins and losses. “He was interested in his players becoming good men, people of sound character.”
Hear about their extraordinary journey and life lessons, including what they learned from the indomitable Eva Mozes Kor, who along with her sister Miriam, was a subject of the inhumane medical experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele. A recording of the panel discussion is available as an episode of Rabbi Pont’s podcast: For the Love of Judaism, at https://open.spotify.com/show/6epCb72tfmB2cP5ugFbDhx.
MJC’s Kristallnacht program was one of several across Monmouth and Middlesex counties, commemorating the anti-Jewish riots Nov. 9-10, 1938, that marked a brutal turning point in the Nazi campaign of persecution.
However, searching the term Kristallnacht, one might not have found them all.
November Pogrom is a term becoming more frequently used by some, according to a November 9 article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). It explains that in Germany, many German speakers are rejecting the Kristallnacht euphemism, which translates to ‘night of shattered glass,’ saying it omits that more than glass was broken.
“Kristallnacht is a much too pretty word for something so terrible, and I don’t use it anymore,” said Jessica Ohletz, vice principal of the Julius-Leber High School in Breisach, a town in southwest Germany.
In Germany, the terms “November Pogrom,” “Pogromnacht” or “Reichspogromnacht” were slowly introduced in the late 1970s, when Germany’s postwar generations began challenging their parents’ sanitized version of history.
In 1978, on the 40th anniversary of Nov. 9, 1938, German lawmaker Klaus Thüsing proposed substituting the term “Reichspogromnacht” for “Reichskristallnacht.”
In 2007, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation publicly called for an end to the use of “Kristallnacht” to describe “such a grave event…”
Though the term Kristallnacht has been largely dropped from official or public parlance in Germany, many English-speaking scholars, and institutions such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “retain the term as a necessary evil,” said Patricia Heberer Rice, senior historian at the museum’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.
“Using ‘Pogrom Night’ or ‘November Pogrom’ might confuse American readers, who do not have the same historical connections with the event as Germans do,” she said in an email to JTA.
Rabbi Pont agrees, adding, “Kristallnacht means something bigger than its literal translation. People know well what it is. Its very sound is memorable. And that is the key; we must remember.”
In the English-speaking world, the term must be viewed with understanding, said Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, in an email to JTA.
“It has become such a distinctive marker for all remembrance of November 9, 1938,” a day whose aftermath she witnessed as a 6-year-old child, walking with her father past their fire-blackened synagogue in Munich, stepping over shards of glass. Knobloch, now 90, survived the war in hiding with a Catholic family.
“What matters most—and certainly more than the question of label—is that people carry on the tradition of remembrance.” she said.