Broken Glass And Insufficient Metaphors

'Kristallnacht' Fails To Encapsulate Terror of Nazi Pogrom

Nazi Pogrom: The Ludwigsburg Synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht.
Wikimedia Commons
Nazi Pogrom: The Ludwigsburg Synagogue was destroyed during Kristallnacht.

By Benjamin Ivry

Published December 18, 2012, issue of December 21, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

The resulting assemblage contains accounts written within a year or so of the events they describe. Nazi propaganda initially persuaded few, as a Nuremberg-born lawyer, Rudolf Bing — not to be confused with the opera impresario of the same name — wrote from Palestine. The supposed excuse for the Nazi pogrom was the November 7 killing of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Jewish refugee. Yet Bing notes, “It was not as though this event had really upset the German people.” Bing adds:

“It was astonishing how in general the Jews in Nuremberg, despite all the hard knocks they had been dealt by fate, did not languish submissively but instead actively took matters in hand in their shrunken community, helped those who needed help, tried to keep the school and worship going and in particular, with everyone’s support, made it possible for young people to emigrate.”

Hope for the next generation was clearly a motivating force for Sofoni Herz, a teacher in a Jewish orphanage in Dinslaken, in West Germany. Gathering her charges — almost three dozen children — after vom Rath’s death she told them, “People are making us Jews responsible for this… I suspect that not since the Middle Ages have we Jews in Germany had to tread a path as hard as the one we now have to take.”

Some witnesses ceded to bitterness, such as distinguished health professional Hertha Nathorff, who until September 1938 was head physician at Berlin’s Charlottenburg Hospital. Reacting to the horrific difficulty of obtaining an exit visa, Nathorff writes: “I’d never even made a streetwalker wait as long at the door to my clinic as I now had to stand, along with other women tortured with worry…. No one took pity on me; no one would help me — me, who had spent my whole life trying to help others.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.