It happens every time without fail.
My spirit breaks a little more every time I see a memorial, another example of the depths to which our species have plumbed.
Does feeling this way make me weak? Or am I resembling a human being after all?
I often hear a common chorus:
history is hard, history is boring, why should I care?
I can’t decide what’s worse: the rise of the far-right or blatant willful ignorance.
A Mob of Broken Glass
From the evening of 9 November to the following morning of 10 November 1938, Kristallnacht (“the night of broken glass”) was a “pogrom”, a coordinated series of violent attacks by Nazis against the Jewish people and their property in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslavakia’s Sudetenland. Pogromnacht (or Reichspogromnacht) is a truer description; the “prettier sounding” Kristallnacht hides the brutality of “the night of (broken) crystal” referring to broken shattered glass from windows to synagogues, homes, and stores owned by Jews. Aside from a few who intervened, most stood aside and watched people and property burn.
The numbers were appalling: at least 90 dead, hundreds injured, 30000 arrested and detained in concentration camps, up to 2000 synagogues burned, over 7000 Jewish businesses damaged or destroyed. With one more insult, the Jewish community was forced to pay for damage to their own property. The outbreak of coordinated actions against Jewish people marked the beginning of state-sanctioned violence. With the Pogromnacht, the state no longer hid their hate and escalated their savagery as a turning point directly leading to the Holocaust.
The Old Synagogue
In the university town of Heidelberg, the earliest recorded presence of Jews dates back to the 13th-century. Jews gathered in what is now the Old Town and converted the building they were using into a synagogue in the early 18th-century; the community built a new synagogue at the same site in 1878.
The synagogue was torched and burned to the ground on Pogromnacht, and the Jewish community was forced to pay for demolition of the building. Alter Synagogenplatz or Old Synagogue Square is all that remains today. With reconstruction and dedication in 2001, there are: memorial plaques with the names of people arrested, deported, and murdered; the outline of the synagogue’s walls in white marble; the entrance and windows marked in grey granite; twelve sandstone cubes representing pews and the twelve tribes of Israel; and a marble stone platform for the location of the Torah ark.
The square is a memorial commemorating the Jewish community who once thrived in Heidelberg’s Old Town. Information at the “Site of the Heidelberg synagogue, 1714-1938” provided by the City of Heidelberg reads:
Jews have lived in Heidelberg since the 13th century, in spite of having been subject to oppression and persecution time and again. In 1714, the “Blue Lily” house situated on this site was converted to a synagogue. In 1878, the community built a new synagogue in contemporary style.
On the night of 9-10 November 1938, Nazi storm troopers set fire to the synagogue. In 1939, the Jewish community was ordered to pay for the demolition of its ruined synagogue.
On 22 October 1940, the Jews of Baden and the Palatinate were deported to Gurs camp in Southern France. Only few of them survived the Shoah. Between 1941 and 1945, more Jews from the area were deported straight to the death camps.
After the end of the war in April 1945, a Jewish community was re-established in Heidelberg. The present-day synagogue is situated in the Weststadt city district, at 10-12 Häusserstrasse. It was inaugruated in 1994.
During the renovation of this square in 2001, white marble cobbles were used to mark the outline of the synagogue. The memorial stone marks the location of the Ark.
Alter Synagogenplatz (Old Synagogue Square) is located in the Altstadt (Old Town) at the corner of Lauerstrasse and Grosse Mantelgasse. In 1994, a new synagogue and Jewish community centre were inaugurated in Heidelberg’s Weststadt. There are now brass “Stolpersteine” or “stumbling stones” with names acknowledging Jews who once lived in Heidelberg.
75th anniversary in 2013:
• Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander returned to her hometown of Berlin, where she has her own “Stolperstein” stumbling stone in the pavement. In 2013, she spoke to NPR about remembering Kristallnacht.
I made all photos above on 21 May 2016 and the featured image on 19 Sep 2017. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-3Ze.