"Christianity--and that is its greatest merit--has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Beserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame... The ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals... Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder... When you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world's history, then you will know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll."
Yesterday and today mark the 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht, known in English as the "Night of Broken Glass." It was 1938 and World War Two was still on the horizon, but anti-Semitism in Germany was strong, and November 9th and 10th would go down in infamy. The homes and businesses of Jewish people were smashed and raided, people were dragged from their homes and beaten, all while the authorities stood silently by. An act of organized horror that was only a foretaste of what was to come.
When German poet Heinrich Heine penned the above quote in 1834, he could not have known what would happen one hundred years hence. Still, his words ring out like an eerie premonition of someone who knew how to read the times.
The Holocaust has always affected me particularly because of my father's Jewish heritage. His grandmother had relatives in Poland who did not survive. So, when I wrote the following poem, it was in their memory, and in the memory of those who suffered on Kristallnacht. May we never forget.
The broken panes, like frightened eyes implore,
And strewn between debris and splintered glass,
The Torah scrolls lie smoldering on the floor.
Like rats, the soldiers from each corner pour,
And of the witnesses, a callous mass,
The broken panes, like frightened eyes, implore.
The rabbi's shall in shreds, which once he wore,
And shards of colored windows fill the grass,
While Torah scrolls lie smoldering on the floor.
They cringe to hear as axes hack the door,
And they who flee, the clubs and stones harass,
Like broken panes, whose frightened eyes implore.
The crumpled forms were cruelly beaten, or
Were slain alike; no notice paid to class,
Like Torah scrolls, laid smoldering on the floor.
Today, the screams and shatters ring no more,
And yet the memory will never pass,
How broken panes, like frightened eyes, implored,
And Torah scrolls lay smoldering on the floor.