Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kristallnacht--Remembering the Fallen

poster /Melkshake13

 Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to hear a holocaust survivor. This is the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. It was the night of the broken  glass.  On November 9-10, 1938 was a carefully orchestrated program of attacks against Jews in Germany and parts of Austria. The word Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets of Jewish owned stores, buildings, and  synagogues. This was  the beginning of the Holocaust which would finally cost the lives of six million Jews. Eleven million people were killed by the Nazis not counting United States soldiers.

Trudy Heller now 92 years old, is a  citizen of Greenville (SC) spoke to us last week. She lived in Vienna that night when everything Jewish there was smashed. 95 Jewish synagogues in Vienna alone were destroyed. During those two days over 1,000 synagogues were either destroyed or burned. 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed or damaged. Ms. Heller was a teenager in Vienna. Nazi authorities knocked on their door, asked for the family's car keys--and they realized terrible things were on the way.  At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks. 30,000 were arrested and thrown into concentration camps. Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were ransacked. So Trudy and her family were told they had six hours to leave their home or die. So they left most of their belongings behind and were cooped up with other Jewish families in a Ghetto. Along the way courageous people helped keep them safe. Finally they were able to cross the Austrian border to Holland and finally to Belgium. Most Jewish folk were not so lucky. 90 members of Trudy Heller's family were killed during those terrible years.

 Miraculously her family finally made their way to the United States and South Carolina. Her father lived to be 87. She married Max Heller in Greenville and he became the Mayor of Greenville and brought many positive changes to this deep-South town.

She reminded us that no Jewish family in Europe was untouched. Ms. Heller said she lost 90 members of her family. Even at 92 Mrs. Heller still tells her great story. She reminded us that gathered that night that Hitler taught people how to hate. "You have to be grateful for what you have," she told our audience. "There is not enough time for hate. We must love one another."Mrs. Heller is the only Kristallnacht survivor in Greenville.

Sitting in that crowded room in Easley, South Carolina that cold night when Ms. Heller spoke I remembered an Anniversary trip which included Budapest, Hungary. Behind the Dohany Street Synagogue is a park named Raoul Wallenberg. It honors the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during World War II. The centerpiece of that park is a metal sculptured piece that honors the 600,000 Hungarian Jews that perished by the hands of the Nazis.

The monument is named the "Silver Weeping Willow." The tree is a maze of metal, slivers of silver that bend toward the earth. The tree houses thousands of metal leaves and on every leaf of the engraved leaves are inscribed the names of the murdered. An inscription in Hebrew frames all this sorrow: "Whose agony is greater than mine?" 

On this Anniversary it gives me pause to remember not only all those that gave their lives 75 years ago--but all those who suffer injustice and wrong at the hands of hatred even after all these years.



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