The 9th of November is a fateful date for Germany. On November 9, 1918, the November Revolution ended the rule of the German Emperor. In 1848, the German democratic politician, revolutionary and anti-Semitism critic Robert Blum had been murdered on that same day. In 1923, the NSDAP and Adolf Hitler tried for the first time to grasp power by means of a coup on this date. And in 1989, the opening of the wall, which had divided Germany for four decades, fell on the 9th of November.
The 9th of November did not become Germany’s national day, mainly because on November 9, 1938, the so-called “Kristallnacht” marks one of the darkest dates in the annals of German history.
The Jerusalem Professor Meier Schwarz has dedicated himself to the research of this date in the framework of the “Synagogue Memorial” research institute. Schwarz considers the term “Kristallnacht” – “night of the broken glass” – to be euphemistic and downplaying a murderous pogrom that was meticulously planned and carried out nationwide by the Nazis.
Embarrassing games with numbers
Originally, the head of the Reich’s Security Police, Reinhard Heydrich, reported on November 11, 1938 to the Prussian Prime Minister Hermann Goering “36 deaths and 36 seriously injured among the Jewish population of the German Reich”. A secret report of the Supreme Party Court in February 1939 already spoke of 91 dead. Nevertheless, the number “36” was passed on for years in the literature as the final number of victims and even copied by scientists again and again. By now, about 400 people are known to have been murdered in the actual night of the pogrom.
Heydrich had reported to Goering: “191 synagogues were set on fire, another 76 completely demolished.” This “Heydrich number” of 267 ruined synagogues was only corrected by the painstaking work of the “Synagogue Memorial”. Meanwhile, it can be proven that in the night of the 9th to the 10th of November 1938 all over Germany at least 1 406 synagogues and Jewish prayer houses were burned down or completely destroyed. 50,000 Jews were deported. 1,300 casualties can be attributed directly to actions resulting from this night of terror. In official statistics, however, they are still not listed as “Holocaust victims”, because the “Holocaust” started officially for historians only with the Wannsee Conference in 1941.
Unfortunately, the blindness to these events, which eventually led to the murder of six million Jews, the decades of ignoring the true extent of this night of crime, and the silence of much of the German population at the time are symptomatic of such outbreaks of hatred against the Jewish people. Meier Schwarz wrote in a press release of his institute twenty years ago: “If the population had not kept silent during the Pogrom Night, such a holocaust could perhaps have been prevented. Anyone who witnesses or conceals crimes takes part in them!”
In October 2000 I personally became once more aware, how highly relevant and urgent it is to remember what happened on November 9, 1938. As a journalist, I observed the days-long battles for Joseph’s Tomb in the center of what is today the Arab town of Nablus, biblical Shekhem. After the withdrawal of the Israeli army, the Palestinian mob devastated the holy site of their so much hated Jewish neighbors with their bare hands. A few days later Josef’s Tomb was re-consecrated as a mosque, its dome painted green. Today the area is closed off. Palestinian police deny access to anyone interested.
According to the Oslo Accords, Jews were supposed to be allowed to pray in the place that their father Jacob once had bought from the sons of Hamor. Later, the remains of the patriarch Joseph were buried there. Like no other place, Joseph’s Tomb for believing Jews is linked to the hope that the God of Israel will fulfill His promises. Today Orthodox Jews can only pray at the risk of their lives, at nighttime under special security arrangements at the grave of their forefather.
Such events are neither unique nor unexpected. Palestinians desecrated and destroyed all the synagogues that fell into their hands. Anyone who encounters Arabs as a German nowadays knows that Hitler is admired and revered. The only criticism of Palestinians towards the German “Führer” is usually that “he did not finish his work properly.” Now, as then, the overwhelming majority of onlookers around the world are silent. Arab hatred of the Jewish people is hardly ever addressed, even though it has to be seen as one of the decisive root causes of the Middle East conflict.
Mutations of hatred
Since the people of Israel exist, there are enemies who want to destroy it. The symptoms of this hatred remain the same. What mutates is the alleged reason for it. Egypt’s pharaoh thought he could justify his infant murder among the Hebrews with a demographic threat. For the Persian Haman, a “different law” was the cause of his extermination plans. Martin Luther hated the Jews because of their religion – if a Jew converted, he was “kosher.”
It was not until the perfection of a racial ideology in the nineteenth century that anti-Semitism emerged and made any integration impossible for Jews. In recent decades, the political expression of the Jewish people, Zionism, had to serve as justification for the eternally unchanging emotions. Today, the state of Israel is “the Jew” in the international community. What remains unchanged is the hatred, even though it is called today “Anti-Zionism”.
Stunning old-new reasons
The ways of justifying an aversion towards the Jewish people have always resembled each other amazingly. There is the being different, and that Jews are so successfully oppose assimilation – today one might say integration. Hitler in his book “Mein Kampf” sought to discover “the moral stains of the chosen people” – which very much reminds of how today the United Nations treats the Jews among the nations. Just compare once the number of condemnations of Israel with the number of resolutions against the rest of the world.
If today Israel is accused of stealing the water of the Palestinians, a closer look and a fact check reveals an astonishingly similar pattern to the well poisoning allegations of the Middle Ages. The 13th century incrimination of host desecration is being reissued by the suspicion that Israel is disgracing or at least “Judaizing” holy sites of other religions.
If today Israel’s army is denounced as slaughtering Palestinian children indiscriminately, then this anti-Israeli propaganda carries stunning similarities to the blood libels that accused Jews of ritually murdering Christian children. It is not necessary to point to the phenomenon how much Christian media in the West long for news about the persecution of Christians in the Jewish state. The allegation that Jews are Christ-Killer is as vivid as openly voiced suspicions that the Jews would dominate the world of finance or the media. Even the claim that the Jews are “the Antichrist” I do not have to seek in relevant history books. A Christian in Bethlehem told me so, obviously believing it from the very bottom of his heart.
Semites as anti-Semites
It is not just Arabs or their friends who claim that a Semite cannot be an anti-Semite. Shimon Peres once explained during one of his thrilling meetings with journalists: “A Jew cannot be an anti-Semite.”
The well-known Rabbi David Ben Yosef Kimchi (1160-1235), the so-called “Radak”, disagrees. The hitherto indisputably influential grammarian of the Hebrew language and exegete of the Bible translated Isaiah 49:17: “Your destroyers and your devastators are coming out of yourself.” And Joseph Herman Hertz, the former Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, recalls “that Israel’s worst enemies who dishonor its good name come from its own camp.”
Thus, it seems to be nothing new, if today the worst slander about the Jewish state originates from and is being spread by Jews and Israelis. This includes the statement that settlers poison the water of the Palestinians.
If it were not so true, it would be a joke, what is told about Albert Einstein. When his theory of relativity was still new and very controversial, Einstein is said to have declared, “If my theory turns out to be true, Germany will claim me as German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. But if my theory turns out to be incorrect, people in France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare me a Jew.”
This, too, has not changed, as anyone who speaks out against hatred of Jews will soon realize. This age-old disease is as slippery as a trout and sly like a snake. Neither academics nor religious believers are immune from it. In their hatred for “the Jews” Hitler and Marx were as united as today appears the political right and left. The lesson of the grisly events of the “Pogrom Night of the German Reich” has still to be drawn, even 80 years later.
 Genesis 33:18-20; Joshua 24:32; compare Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19.
 Joseph Herman Hertz, Pentateuch und Haftoroth. Hebräischer Text und deutsche Übersetzung mit Kommentar, Band 5: Deuteronomium (Zürich: Verlag Morascha, 1984), 491.
 Bill Adler, Jüdische Weisheiten, Jüdischer Witz, übersetzt von Werner Gronwald (München: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1971), 39.