Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kristallnacht--Today is the 78th Anniversary of that Awful Time.

photo by David Skinner / flickr
Maybe I'm being too dramatic--but in the aftermath of yesterday's Presidential election--I have thought about Germany and the Hitler days. On November 9-10, 1938 this became known of the "Night of the Breaking Glass." Kristallnacht. Today is the 78th anniversary of the beginning of a terrible chapter in German history.  Before that night most of the hatred against German Jews was nonviolent. But Kristallnacht changed all that. Paramilitary forces began to attack Jewish homes, hospitals and schools. Jewish buildings were smashed by sledgehammers. Over 1,000 synagogues were burned and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Authorities watched on and did nothing. 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. This was the beginning of one of the darkest periods in German history. This was the beginning of the murder of over 6 million Jews. 

I have been reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It tells the story of that dark time in our own history of slavery. The savagery and violence perpetrated against all those black folks we kidnapped from Africa and brought here as slaves is hard to ponder. Black women were sterilized so they would not produce more black children. Many had no idea what doctors were doing to their bodies. Black men, women and children were put on the auction block and sold like cattle. Children were separated from their parents. Black couples were sent to different plantations. Black women were used sexually by their owners over and over. Black men became studs to impegnate black women so the plantations could have more workers. Some were burned alive as other slaves were forced to watch.

Runaways were punished terribly. Some had their tongues cut out. Some were hanged and left as a reminder to those who also thought about escaping. Others had hands or feet cut off for punishment. The Underground Railroad provided escape for many. 

My daughter teaches at a Title One school in Atlanta. Each child gets free breakfasts and lunches. She told me that only this morning one of her little black boys asked her who won the election. She said, "You  know." He said, "We gonna be slaves again." "No you're not," she assured him. She also told me that all her Hispanic students were scared. She said they had picked up the anxiety from their parents over Mr. Trump's comments. 

On this day I remember what happened in our own tragic history. And I remember that terrible time in Germany 78 years ago. I am not saying that Mr. Trump is some sort of Hitler figure. I am saying that this is America and every child and adult should live in this country without fear. On this Anniversary of Kristallnacht--and the day after our Presidential election--these are my troubled thoughts. 

UKBERRI.NET / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

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