My grandparents thought Kristallnacht could never happen. We can’t make the same mistake.
On November 9th 1938, Nazi paramilitary and civilian groups carried out mass acts of violence against synagogues, Jewish-owned businesses, and Jewish homes. The broken glass found on the streets the next day would define this moment as “Kristallnacht,” the night of broken glass.
A short time after Kristallnacht, my grandfather Israel Kohn and other Jewish leaders were told of the impending doom for the Jewish people. They did not believe it because such open destruction and disregard had never happened before. My grandfather decided to stay in Poland, where he witnessed the murder of his family, and was ultimately gassed to death in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
Within one year, 1939, Hitler successfully invaded Poland, the land which had the largest Jewish population.
Last night we had Kristallnacht in America. Our response will determine our future.
The morning news is applauding the suspension of Trump’s Twitter account, politicians are calling for arrests and long sentences and the FBI is asking for help in identifying the violent and seditious domestic terrorists from the videos.
These are transactional solutions for a problem that needs a transformative solution.
Donald Trump is a dangerous man, who has consistently threatened our democracy and broken the rule of law. He should be impeached today.
Yet, while this would be an immediate and necessary move, it will not solve the larger problem. Transactional solutions can be necessary, but they do not solve the larger problem.
America has an illness, a curable illness, but only when we confront it head on. Our illness is our commitment to keeping white people in power, and ensuring that women and people of color do not get far enough in life to overtake the power that whiteness affords.
Let’s not repeat the mistake my grandfather made by assuming a takeover of America is impossible.
When it comes to the violent domestic terrorists in our nation’s capital, I know from my own incarceration that arresting and incarcerating people will not change their beliefs or solve our country’s problems. Incarceration does not turn a white supremacist into a better person. Incarceration hardens white supremacy in an echo chamber of violence.
At the same time, these domestic terrorists who stormed the capital like Nazi storm troopers need to be held accountable. But they also need to understand their own biases and fears. If we don’t focus on the root cause, white supremacists will continue to try and take back what they perceive to be their country.
I am a formerly incarcerated Jewish lesbian and the child of two survivors of the Holocaust. From my family’s history, I learned early on not to minimize hate or haters. From my Judaism, I learned that we are all made in G-d’s image — we are equal. Yet from my lesbian identity, I have experienced how some have corrupted G-d’s message of equality to harm the LGBTQ+ community.
Unless we deal with this problem in a transformational way, Trump and his millions of followers will not stop. Some are prepared to die for their cause. And for those who do not support these violent and seditious rioters, January 6th must be a day, we never forget.
Evie Litwok is the founder and executive director of Witness to Mass Incarceration whose mission is to end mass incarceration by placing the voices of formerly incarcerated women and LGBTQ+ people at the forefront of the movement for alternatives to mass incarceration.