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10 Kristallnacht Photos That Capture the Horror of 'The Night of Broken Glass'

10 Kristallnacht Photos That Capture the Horror of 'The Night of Broken Glass'











“Our synagogue is burning!”

Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky dropped the phone and ran to his place of worship. It was 2 a.m., but the sky was already bright. As he approached the Synagogue Prinzregentenstrasse in Berlin, pushing his hat down so he wouldn’t be recognized, Swarsensky saw flames engulfing the building. German soldiers were inside, stoking the flames with gasoline. Nearby, firefighters stood idly by, making sure the flames didn’t extend to other buildings.

Kristallnacht was a night Swarsensky—and any Jewish person who lived through the wave of pogroms that unfolded between November 9 and 10, 1938—would never forget.

During Kristallnacht, also known as the “night of broken glass,” anti-Semitic rioters terrorized Jews throughout Germany and its territories. They vandalized homes and businesses, attacked and harassed Jewish people, and destroyed their places of worship. Kristallnacht offered a terrifying vision of what was to come: the annihilation of six million European Jews.

Anti-Jewish rhetoric had become common in Germany by 1938. For years, the Nazi Party had passed anti-Jewish laws that restricted Jewish life, from curtailing the number of Jewish students at universities to forcing Jews to carry ID cards and forbidding Jewish people from owning most businesses.

Then, on November 7, 1938, the floodgates opened when Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew, shot Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat in Paris. The Nazi Party used vom Rath’s death two days later as an excuse to fan the flames of anti-Semitism. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivered a speech that blamed the attack on Jews and suggested the government would do nothing to prevent reprisals against German Jews.

Suddenly, violence against Jews broke out all over Germany and its territories. Mobs attacked an estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned stores and businesses, breaking windows and looting. They broke into synagogues, vandalizing their interiors, smashing everything they could find, and burning more than 1,000 places of worship.

The mobs attacked Jewish people, beating them and humiliating them in the streets and killing at least 96 people. And they rounded up an estimated 30,000 Jewish men, arresting them and sending most to concentration camps. Though the attacks seemed random, most were carried out by Nazi Party adherents who had been given instructions to riot as police looked the other way.

The damage was devastating, but it was only the beginning. “First they burned down the synagogue,” recalled Dennis Urstein, who experienced Kristallnacht in Vienna when he was 14 years old. “Then people were put on the street, cleaning the streets and being spit upon and hit upon and [called racial slurs]…I just couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand why it was done.”

In the aftermath, the German government blamed the Jews for the attacks against them, levied a massive fine on German Jews, and forced them to hand over insurance payouts they received for the damage. A series of strict anti-Jewish laws followed. Though Kristallnacht took place three years before Adolf Hitler began to implement his “final solution”—the murder of all of Europe’s Jews—the violent rampage marked the beginning of the Holocaust.


Behind Broken Glasses

Inspired by the seminal work of James Joyce, Feroz Rather creates magic in his book The Night of Broken Glass. Shabir Mir sees the stories powerful but detects issues in the inter-linkages of characters

First things first The Night of Broken Glass by Feroz Rather is not a novel. The book is a wonderful collection of short stories neither suffixing it with a novel does add anything to it nor dropping this suffix take away anything from it.

Now back to the book. Feroz Rather in many an interview has revealed how Dubliners, (the seminal short story collection of James Joyce) had been his constant companion during the writing of the stories of The Night of Broken Glass. The stories in Dubliner’s centre on Joyce’s idea of Epiphany: a moment where a character experiences a life-changing self-understanding or illumination. To some extent, Feroz’s stories also centre on an epiphany but his epiphany is totally different from a Joycean kind and many times Feroz’s epiphany is for the reader rather the characters themselves. The epiphany of a Kristallnacht.

Kristallnacht or The Night of Broken Glass is the infamous night intervening between November 9 and 10 of 1938 during which rioters comprising of Nazi paramilitary forces and German civilians attacked and vandalized Jewish houses, establishments and Synagogues. The streets by the morning that followed were littered with broken glass shards hence the name of the book.

Kristallnacht changed the nature of the Nazi persecution of Jews from economic, political, and social to physical with beatings, incarceration, and murder the event is often referred to as the beginning of the Holocaust. The Kristallnacht was an epiphany of sorts for German Jews it was a night when they for the first time realized the horror of the times they were living in.

Unlike German Jews, the Kashmiris never had a collective Kristallnacht, they rather have had and continue to have individual kristallnachts. Every Kashur, sooner or later, in one way or another, has had his night of the broken glass. And every Kashmiri’s Kristallnachtis his/her epiphany wherein he/she realizes the helplessness and precariousness of their existence amidst the demons of terror that the conflict has unleashed. Feroz Rather centres his stories around such individual Kristallnacht epiphanies.

Thus in Pheran Maryam’s Kristallnacht is her daily dealing with the reports of violence and devastation-physical and emotional- that she comes face to face during her journalistic dealings and her epiphany is her realization of how her journalistic duties making her lose touch with her stitching is threatening her ability to reflect and contemplate.

As she puts it so eloquently, “… working with a needle created possibilities of humility and surrender for me.” And contrasts this with the deadening effect of dealing with the death and destruction on a daily basis: “(I am afraid) I will forget the nightmares of destruction that I plunge into every time I sleep.”

Similarly, in The Souvenir Tariq’s father is trying to shield his son from the Kristallnacht as he hides the bullet cases that he collects scrumptiously from the streets. But Tariq meets his Kristallnacht on a hartal day when instead of feeding pigeons at the shrine of Shah e Hamdan, a soldier makes him shoot them. Tariq’s epiphany is his acquaintance with the culture of violence that can claim an innocent life anytime, anywhere. He begins to collect his own bullet cases.

Feroz Rather, the author of The Night of Broken Glass.

The kristallnachts and the epiphanies are spread throughout Feroz’s stories while some of them are explicit and obvious few of them are quite implicit and of a different order. In the first story, The Old Man in the Cottage, for instance, the epiphany is for the reader rather than for any of the characters: the epiphany of the desolateness and emptiness of the revenge. Even Major S and Inspector Masoodi junior, the two main agencies of state violence and terror have their own sort of Kristallnachts: nightmares for the former and an ever-present ghost of a murdered militant for the latter.

Another interesting thing about these epiphanies is the metamorphosis they cause in the characters that have to face them. Feroz in a subtle way is examining the toll that the occupation and its ensuing violence is taking on people – the neutral bystanders as well as the active conflict-involved ones.

Take for instance Mohsin in The Miscreant. His epiphany comes when Inspector Masoodi asks him to recite the verse, ‘Guide us on the straight path’ from Surah e Fatiha as a condition to let him go. And at that very moment, Mohsin realizes how people like Masoodi can subvert the religion to their own purpose. He sees the irony and the hypocrisy of all of it and metamorphoses from an incidental stone thrower to a cold, angry person who hits force 10 with a wash basin on the head.

Similarly, Tariq who had his kristallnacht and epiphany in The Souvenir is now shown in this story to have metamorphosed into something dark and vitriolic. Despite his intellectual potential, he is reduced to a shell of a man who must and who has rebelled against every sort of authority including religion. It is a terrible interplay of forces that are brought fore the spiralling interplay of violence and the reaction there of.

Feroz also examines the effect of this external stress (that of the state oppression) on the inherent fault-lines of the Kashmiri society – the fault-lines of religion, caste, class and gender. And in the process tries to interlink all the 13 stories in this collection to etch out the cartography of Kashmiri society caught in the throes of decades-old armed conflict.

But this is where he is at his weakest. The inter-linkage of stories works at times and at times it subverts an otherwise brilliant story. For instance, the inter-linkage of The Souvenir, The Miscreant and the Stone Thrower work to a perfection and Tariq’s story juxtaposed with Mohsin’s presents a brilliant case of parallel and contrast. But the inter-linkage of the Robin Polish with the rest of the stories is not quite up to the mark.

The problem actually is with this story itself rather than with the manner of inter-linkage. Robin Polish is a brilliant story wherein a superb delineation of a fractured father-son relationship is created based on the power dynamic of religion, class and caste. It is a complete story in itself but by linking it with the rest of stories Feroz achieves little and looses more as the powerful impact of the religion-politico-social dynamic is sidelined by the over-dominant narrative of authoritative-political one.

Of course, no Kashmiri can escape from the ramifications of the decades-old violence and even older political conflict neither in reality nor in fiction but the point here is that the dealing with the conflict and violence has to be unobtrusive and incidental to our fiction otherwise our fiction will degrade into mere pamphleteering and polemic. Our art has to imbibe the pain and the horrors and the terror of our times and not to just vomit it out. Does the crisis subjugate our stories as well? Let us start by asking ourselves.


NYC Tech recalls the Nazi horror of Kristallnacht

In observance of Kristallnacht, New York City Technical College told the harrowing story of Dr. Roald Hoffmann, a child survivor of the Holocaust.

Kristallnacht — “Night of the Broken Glass” — given the name to a series of pogroms staged during the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, against the Jewish communities of Germany because of the countless broken windows — of synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes that were plundered and destroyed. During this tragedy. Countless lives were lost and oppressive policies against Jews followed, culminating in the Holocaust, the state-sponsored genocide of the Jewish people.

Since the spring of 2001, Dr. Roald Hoffmann, now Nobel Laureate in Chemistry at Cornell University, had been the host of a monthly series of programs at the Cornelia Street Café called “Entertaining Science,” which explores the juncture between the arts and sciences in a delightful manner that provides a serious introduction to science.

Dr. Hoffmann’s presentation will focus on his harrowing experiences during World War II as well as on his education and early experiences after coming to America in 1949.

During the Holocaust in Zloczów, Poland an Ukrainian neighbor teacher’s family, the Dyuk’s, hid Hoffman, his mother, two uncles and an aunt in the unlit attic and then a storeroom of the local village schoolhouse.

According to Yad Vashem’s records the family was first recognized by the Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations [recognizing those non-Jews, who risked their lives to save to save Jews during the Holocaust] in 2007 and the Righteous Among the Nations Medal was presented to their daughter. Mykola died in 1972 and his wife, Maria, in 1983.

Hoffman visited Zloczów with his adult son (then a parent of a five-year-old) in 2006 and found that the attic where he had hidden was still intact, but the storeroom had been incorporated, ironically enough, into a chemistry classroom. In 2009, a monument to Holocaust victims was built in Zloczów on Hoffmann’s initiative.

Introducing Dr. Hoffmann will be Robin Hirsch, writer, theater director and co-owner of Cornelia Street Café here in New York City, and author of Last Dance at the Hotel Kempinski. In his Nobel Lecture, Dr. Hoffmann spoke of building bridges between two realms of chemistry. It has been said that he also builds bridges between science and the humanities. Dr. Hoffmann will receive JFSA’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award.

Following Dr. Hoffmann’s presentation, City Tech English Professor Jane Mushabac, Cornell alumna and past City Tech Scholar on Campus a discussion will moderate a discussion.

She has been a Fellow of the Mellon Foundation and of the NEH, and has a BA magna cum laude from Cornell, an MA from Harvard and a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center. She is associate professor of English at City Tech where she was the 2011 Scholar on Campus.

This City Tech event commemorating the 74th anniversary of Kristallnacht begins at 12:45 p.m. in the College’s Atrium Amphitheater, 300 Jay Street. Admission is free.

This program’s primary sponsor is the City Tech Jewish Faculty & Staff Association (JFSA). Event co-sponsors, in alphabetical order, include: ADL/Hidden Child Foundation, Baruch College Jewish Studies Center, Cornell Hillel: The Yudowitz Center for Jewish Campus Life, Cornell Office of Alumni Affairs, Education Update, Facing History and Ourselves, Foundation for Jewish Culture, Interfaith Committee of Remembrance, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Macaulay Honors College/CUNY and Simon Wiesenthal Center – Museum of Tolerance New York.


10 Kristallnacht Photos That Capture the Horror of 'The Night of Broken Glass' - HISTORY

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    Alvin Fisher’s students in his ninth grade Hebrew class at Oheb Shalom Congregation told him that they did not believe that the Holocaust ever happened. Thus was the beginning of Mr. Fisher’s crusade to have a memorial to Holocaust victims constructed in his own city of Baltimore.

    The Baltimore Jewish Council, in 1976, adopted the project to construct the major monument to Holocaust victims. Ruth Hurwitz, Associate Director, supervised the effort. A one acre site on a busy street in downtown Baltimore was selected. The original memorial, designed by Donald Kann of Kann and Associates and Arthur Valk of Valk Design Associates, was constructed in 1980 for a cost of $300,000. The memorial had three parts a large grassy mound planted with trees, two 80 by 19 feet cantilevered blocks of bleached, gray-white concrete which were deliberately featureless, cold and brutal and a grassy mall behind the blocks. On one wall was a granite inscription consecrating the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and listing the 32 camps where they died.

    In 1987, Jean and Melvin Burger, and Jean and Jack Luskin commissioned the internationally renowned artist Joseph Sheppard to produce a sculpture for the memorial.

    In 1988, the sculpture was dedicated in the memory of Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glass, which in 1938 the Nazis destroyed Jewish homes, shops and synagogues. A quotation from the philosopher and author George Santayana, "Those who do not remember the past are destined to repeat it" is inscribed around the base of the sculpture.

    In 1995, the Baltimore Jewish Council, Rabbi Joel Ziaman, president, agreed to support a redesigned memorial. The original one had substantially deteriorated because it provided a location for activities inappropriate for the memorial. Dr. Arthur C. Abramson, Executive Director, supervised the effort to replace the memorial while leaving the sculpture in place. Architect Jonathan Fishman of Richter, Cornbrooks and Gribble was selected to provide guidance in defining the memorial themes and producing an appropriate architectural design. His description of the theme "Our notion was to conceive the site as an abandoned rail yard. The idea was to evoke a sense of vacancy, an image of abandonment." Holocaust author Dr. Deborah Lipstadt was commissioned to write perspective message to be placed on a plaque.

    In 1997 the Baltimore Jewish Council, Myrna Cardin president, dedicated the redesigned memorial. Several survivors of the concentration camps were present for the dedication.

    Vom 09. auf den 10. November im Jahre 1938 begann mit der Reichskristallnacht (auch Pogromnacht genannt) eines der bittersten Kapitel der deutschen Geschichte. Mehrere 100 Juden wurden in dieser Nacht ermordet und mehrere 1000 am folgenden Tag in Konzentrationslager verschleppt.

    Dieses Denkmal soll daran erinnern dass es niemals eine gute Sache ist wenn es ins Extreme umschlägt.

    From the 9th to the 10th of November in 1938, one of the bitterest chapters in German history began with the Kristallnacht (also called Pogromnacht). Several hundred Jews were murdered that night and several thousand were taken to concentration camps the following day.

    This memorial is intended to remind you that it is never a good thing when it turns into extremes.

    Väterchen Frost verzaubert in der Kristallnacht das kleinste Gänseblümchen in eine - von Diamanten besetzte - Schönheit.

    Ich wünsche euch allen einen sonnigen Tag.

    Halberstadt is a town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, the capital of Harz district. Located north of the Harz mountain range, it is known for its old town centre that was severely damaged in World War II and rebuilt in the following decades.

    Halberstadt is situated between the Harz in the south and the Huy hills in the north on the Holtemme and Goldbach rivers, both left tributaries of the Bode. The municipal area comprises the villages of Aspenstedt, Athenstedt, Langenstein, Sargstedt, and Ströbeck, all incorporated in 2010. Halberstadt is the base of the Department of Public Management of the Hochschule Harz University of Applied Studies and Research.

    The town centre retains many important historic buildings and much of its ancient townscape. Notable places in Halberstadt include Halberstadt Cathedral, the Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) and St Martin's, churches built in the 12th and 13th centuries. Halberstadt is the site of the first documented large, permanent pipe organ installation in 1361.[2] The cathedral is notable among those in northern European towns in having retained its medieval treasury in virtually complete condition. Among its treasures are the oldest surviving tapestries in Europe, dating from the 12th century. The town is also a stop on the scenic German Timber-Frame Road

    The town can be reached via the Bundesstraße 6n (since 2019 called Bundesautobahn 36), 79, 81, and 245 federal highways. Halberstadt station is an important railway hub on the Magdeburg–Thale and Halle–Vienenburg lines, mainly served by Transdev Sachsen-Anhalt. The Halberstadt tramway network currently operates two lines.

    Germania Halberstadt is a football club which plays in Halberstadt.

    In 814 the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious made the Christian mission in the German stem duchy of Saxony the episcopal see of the Diocese of Halberstadt. It was vested with market rights by King Otto III in 989. The town became the administrative centre of the Saxon Harzgau and an important trading location. The Halberstadt bishops had the Church of Our Lady erected from about 1005 onwards. In his fierce conflict with Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, the forces of the Saxon duke Henry the Lion devastated the town in 1179.

    Upon Henry's downfall, the Halberstadt diocese was elevated to a prince-bishopric about 1180. Its Cathedral was rebuilt from 1236 and consecrated in 1491. Halberstadt, Quedlinburg and Aschersleben joined a league of towns (Halberstädter Dreistädtebund) in 1326 from 1387, the city was also a member of the Hanse.

    From 1479, the diocese was administrated by the Archbishops of Magdeburg. While the Halberstadt citizens turned Protestant around 1540, the cathedral chapter elected Prince Henry Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel first Lutheran bishop in 1566. During the Thirty Years' War, the town was occupied by the troops of Albrecht von Wallenstein in 1629 and temporarily re-Catholicized according to the imperial Edict of Restitution. According to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, the prince-bishopric was finally secularized to the Principality of Halberstadt held by Brandenburg-Prussia. The first secular governor was Joachim Friedrich von Blumenthal.

    Halberstadt became part of the newly established Kingdom of Prussia in 1701. From 1747 Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim worked here as a government official and made his home an intellectual centre of the Enlightenment (Aufklärung) movement. Upon the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit, the town became part of the Kingdom of Westphalia, a Napoleonic client-state, and administrative seat of the Westphalian Department of Saale. On 29 July 1809, a Westphalian regiment was defeated by the Black Brunswickers under Prince Frederick William of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in the Battle of Halberstadt.[3]

    After the defeat of Napoleon, the town was restored to Prussia and subsequently administered within the Province of Saxony. From 1815, Halberstadt was home of garrison of the Prussian 7th (Magdeburg) Cuirassiers "von Seydlitz" regiment, with Otto von Bismarck in the rank of an officer à la suite from 1868. The town's economy was decisively promoted by the opening of the Magdeburg–Halberstadt Railway in 1843. The tramway was inaugurated in 1903.

    Junkers Ju 88 wing production

    In 1912 the Halberstädter Flugzeugwerke aircraft manufacturer was founded followed by the opening of a military airbase, providing the German Luftstreitkräfte in World War I. After the war it had to close down according to the regulations of the Treaty of Versailles, until in the course of the German re-armament, it opened again in 1935 as a branch of the Junkers company in Dessau. The aircraft factory was the site of an SS forced labourer camp, one of several subcamps of Buchenwald the production facilities and the nearby Luftwaffe airbase were targets of Allied bombing during the 'Big Week' in February 1944.

    In the last days of World War II, in April 1945, US forces approached Halberstadt as they attacked remaining Nazi troops in the short-lived Harz pocket. They dropped leaflets instructing Halberstadt's Nazi ruler to fly a white flag on the town hall as a token of surrender.[4] He refused, no white flag was raised and on 8 April 1945, 218 Flying Fortresses of the 8th Air Force, accompanied by 239 escort fighters, dropped 595 tons of bombs on the centre of Halberstadt. This killed about 2,500 people and converted most of the old town into some 1.5 million cubic metres of rubble, which American troops briefly occupied three days later.[5] By June 1945, the town and its garrison was handed over to the 3rd Shock Army of the Soviet Red Army forces.

    Halberstadt was part of newly established Saxony-Anhalt from 1945–1952, after which it was within Bezirk Magdeburg in East Germany. During the Peaceful Revolution in Autumn 1989, St Martin's Church was a centre of the Swords to ploughshares movement. After the reunification of Germany, Halberstadt became part of the restored state of Saxony-Anhalt.

    Interior of Halberstadt Synagogue in 1930 (watercolour painting)

    In the 17th century, Halberstadt had one of the largest Jewish communities in central Europe. At the time, nearly one in twelve of the town's inhabitants, almost 700 people, were Jewish. Notable amongst them was Berend Lehmann (1661–1730). One example of Lehmann's work was the impressive Baroque synagogue he financed, which was completed in 1712. In November 1938, after the Kristallnacht pogroms, the Nazi authorities forced the Jewish community to demolish the building, as the attack on it was said to have left it in danger of collapsing.

    A short distance from the synagogue, Lehmann also had a house built for students of Judaism, with a collection of theological writings. This building, known as the "Klaus", was where many important students of the Talmud and rabbis were taught. The "Klaus" gave Halberstadt the reputation of being an important centre for the study of the Torah. Today the Moses Mendelssohn Academy is based there this organises exhibitions, congresses and presentations and provides a wide range of information about the Jewish culture and way of life.

    World's slowest, longest concert

    A performance of John Cage's organ piece As Slow As Possible began in the Burchardikirche in Halberstadt in September 2001 the performance is scheduled to take 639 years. The concert began on 5 September 2001 with a rest lasting 17 months. On the dates of the sound changes the church is usually well visited.


    Kristallnacht Remains Relevant 82 Years Later

    Assessing some of the damage after Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass,” in Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938.

    This week Germany marks the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass.” The nationwide Nazi pogrom against that country’s Jewish community took place on Nov. 9-10, 1938, and is chiefly remembered for the destruction of so many Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues—debris filling the streets with shards of glass from shattered windows and doors.

    Kristallnacht is often described as the harbinger of the Holocaust that would soon consume the lives of 6 million Jewish men, women and children during the following years at the hands of Germans and their collaborators. But it might more accurately be referred to as the culmination of a process of demonization and marginalization by the Nazi regime that led to a national demonstration of intolerance and violence. Within a few years, the horror of the blood shed by the murderers would eclipse the shock of the Kristallnacht pogrom. But what must be understood about the events of November 1938 is that prior to that event, it was still possible to pretend that Germany was a civilized nation, even if Adolf Hitler and his followers, who took power in January 1933, spoke and acted like barbarians.

    In 2019, the significance of this date is not in doubt. What is in question is whether it should serve as a measuring stick for us to evaluate today’s crisis of anti-Semitism. After shootings in synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., and the brazen attack last month on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, as well as a host of other incidents throughout Europe, it’s clear that the rising tide of anti-Semitism that has swept over the globe in recent years is not abating. Violence from the far right aimed at Jews has become a fact of life that shouldn’t be ignored.

    Meanwhile, the demonization of Jews and Israel from the left has also become a part of mainstream discourse in Europe. It is also finding a foothold in the United States as BDS advocates have become louder and shockingly prominent in the form of two members of Congress: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who are lionized by the press as victims of Islamophobia rather than hatemongers.

    These developments have provoked fears that the cycle of violence and delegitimization that led to Kristallnacht is being repeated. But while there is an obvious need for a sense of alarm about the uptick in anti-Semitism, the fact that nothing that is happening today is analogous to what was going on in 1938 cannot be emphasized enough.

    To state that doesn’t gainsay the fact that Jewish life is under siege in Europe, as even well-meaning government officials have gone so far as to tell German and French Jews not to wear identifying clothing, like kipahs, or jewelry, like Star of David necklaces, on the streets so as not to make themselves targets. Nor does it minimize the threat from terrorist groups or anti-Semitic regimes like that of Iran, which still hopes to acquire nuclear weapons and therefore place the one Jewish state on the planet in peril of being annihilated. Fears about Britain being ruled by an anti-Semite like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are similarly justified.

    But the problem in Europe is not that the continent is about to fall into the hands of Nazis. It’s that only several decades after the Holocaust, the world is still awash in anti-Semitism that legitimizes the ongoing war on Israel and Zionism, and might one day engender more hatred and violence elsewhere if left unchecked.

    Our problem is not recognizing that anti-Semitism exists, but how to calibrate our response so as to avoid the twin perils of hysteria and complacence.

    Kristallnacht wasn’t so much the beginning of Nazi crimes against the Jews—discrimination, arbitrary imprisonment and violence long predated that moment. But it was the point of no return beyond which foreign observers could no longer deceive themselves about the nature of the regime and what it was capable of doing. Before then, even those who were not hostile to Jews—plus some Jews themselves, including those who remained loyal to their German homeland despite the fact that it was painfully clear their love was not requited—could see Hitler’s rise as an aberration, a passing phase that would soon be either defeated or absorbed into less dangerous movements. Until then, Nazi Germany could still be, albeit with difficulty, spoken of as somehow connected to the Germany that was at the heart of European high culture and science, rather than barbarism.

    Yet to think clearly about Kristallnacht requires us to be both vigilant and realistic about the nature of contemporary anti-Semitism. You don’t have to believe that a new Auschwitz is possible in the near future to understand that Jew-haters on the right, as well as their strange Islamist bedfellows, would, if they could, repeat the horrors of the past. What they are capable of doing in the present is bad enough in terms of their efforts to demonize Israel and its Jewish supporters without resorting to hyperbole that undermines any effort to raise awareness of the problem.

    Nor does one enhance Jewish security by speaking of the threat from white supremacists as having the kind of support that the Nazis possessed from a massive percentage of the Germany electorate. Today’s far-right-wing killers are largely isolated politically and can count on no support from the political establishment in Germany or the United States.

    Equally foolish is the attempt to link President Donald Trump to anti-Jewish violence, ignoring his pro-Israel record and repeated condemnations of white supremacists.

    What is required of our Kristallnacht commemorations is a cool-headed willingness to call out hate wherever it occurs and to take whatever action is needed to ensure the safety of our communities. We must also be willing to understand that the Jews are not alone today the way they were in 1938. Nor, thanks to the existence of the State of Israel, are they powerless. Those who forget or misinterpret history so as to bolster foolish alarmism or dangerous complacence are not doing the Jews or the fight against hate any good.


    7 Establishing The Generalgouvernement

    When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, it launched World War II and gave the Nazis more territorial control. Poland was split into three regions, and the central region became known as Generalgouvernement. From the very beginning, Generalgouvernement was meant to be a place where the SS could carry out some of its worst atrocities against the Jewish people.

    Although Hans Frank was the governor-general of Generalgouvernement, it was SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Friedrich Kruger who actually ran the region. He, his SS underlings, and the police forces they controlled were there to carry out the Nazis&rsquo racial policies. They also used the 12 million people living within the Generalgouvernement as cheap labor. Nothing but complete obedience was acceptable. If the Polish opposition killed a German, the SS would publicly execute 50� Poles.

    The SS also carried out mass killings and arrests simply to send a message and to keep the opposition stifled. Many Polish institutions were destroyed, art and historic artifacts were stolen, and their financial institutions were usurped. The Germans even controlled the food sources and left the Poles with barely enough food to survive. But the situation was far worse for Jewish Poles. Shortly after the invasion, their property was taken, and they were forced into slave labor. Three years later, many were sent to nearby extermination camps, where the vast majority of them were killed.


    Kristallnacht: 75 years later, survivors share experience as a way of warning, sharing values

    Of the night his neighborhood in Vienna was burned and broken, Ilie Wacs most remembers two sounds: There's the click, click of hobnail boots climbing the stone stairs in the apartment building where he huddled, a boy of 11, with his family, silent and terrified in the dark. The footsteps stop outside. No one utters a sound on either side of the door. That silence reverberates still for him. Then the click, click again as the boots move on.

    It was Nov. 9-10, 1938 — a long, chaotic night 75 years ago that signaled the start of the Holocaust. Kristallnacht, often referred to as the "night of broken glass," was of deadly importance for Jewish people living in Germany and parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia.

    Buildings shook, synagogues burned and Jewish-owned stores crumbled as Nazis rampaged as part of an organized plan disguised as a public anti-semitic groundswell. Some marauders eschewed SS uniforms so they could pretend to be random citizens, not an army carrying out a calculated pogrom. Families were torn apart as they were expelled from their homes and young men were arrested and shipped to concentration camps. Many would not return.

    Ninety-one Jews were killed outright that night, said Aaron Breitbart, senior researcher for the Museum of Tolerance and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Kristallnacht showed that the Nazis were willing to resort to actual murder. Before that, the persecution of the Jews had been legislative." The laws made it hard for Jews to make a living. Up to that point, they had been treated as less than human, he said, "but never murder."

    It also gave Hitler's Nazis a chance to see how far those around them would allow the persecution of Jews to go, said Breitbart. They started with laws and waited for pushback. It didn't come. They ramped up anti-Jewish efforts. "Many people in different parts of the world got up and said no," he noted. "But when all was said and done, more was said than done. They saw the world was really not that interested."

    Ben Lesser, who spent much of his childhood in concentration camps before being liberated at age 17, said three kinds of people lived in his world then: "It was a mad world of killers, victims and bystanders."

    Living witness

    Wacs, 85, a celebrated artist and clothing designer who settled in New York, has told the story to his daughters and others: Earlier that day a young man who had worked for Ilie Wacs' father in his tailoring shop came quietly to the family. He was part of Hitler's SS by then, but he told the elder Wacs to gather his kin and stay inside. Wac's maternal aunt and her family came. They huddled in darkness, he told the Deseret News.

    He wrote about it in "An Uncommon Journey," a memoir with his sister Deborah Strobin, just a baby that November night. "It didn't take long before the silence filled with the shattering explosion of glass. The night wore on, a cacophony of sledgehammers and axes breaking down doors, women screaming, babies crying, men yelling at other men. There was the acrid smell of smoke, fires burning something, not in our building, and the horrifying scuffle of people and furniture being dragged out of their homes and into the streets. We heard the chaos coming closer."

    Because of the young Nazi, the Wacs family escaped intact, going to Shanghai, which accepted Jews. It was rough but better. Later, he studied art in Paris, then joined his family in America.

    Lesser missed Kristallnacht, though his family was forced repeatedly from one ghetto to another. The hatred that sparked Kristallnacht caught up with them in Hungary, where they'd gone from their native Poland. His mother, father, sister and two brothers died in concentration camps. Seven went in he and a sister emerged.

    Lesser came to America and worked hard to be the best at anything he tried. He married, raised a family and recently wrote "Living a Life that Matters: From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream." He wrote it in part to tell youths anything is possible. He got to America at 18 with no education, no language, no money, no friends and "I built a beautiful life. In this wonderful country, who's stopping you?"

    Lesser and Wacs see their history as a warning and plea.

    "It is important to tell the story so that people keep remembering what happened and what people are capable of doing. By remembering, they make sure it doesn't happen again," said Wacs, who will be featured in Kristallnacht remembrances in New York and Los Angeles this week.

    Time has claimed most eyewitnesses. "In another five to 10 years, I don't think we will have survivors who saw it with their own eyes to tell us what happened," said Breitbart.

    When the only tale-tellers are films and books and documentaries, it won't be the same, said Breitbart, who can rattle off dates and numbers and who did what during the Holocaust. "I cannot convey the horror of the Holocaust. That is why what these people have to say is extremely important. Some pseudo-academics like to say it never happened or is exaggerated. … In this age when most of the players and eyewitness journalists and jurists are no longer there, it is important those who are tell us."

    Experts say the yearning to share personal experience is universal.

    "Telling your own story helps personalize the forces that produced you and the people who you care for, especially as the generations of the immediate survivors of the Holocaust pass away. The stories remain and help others understand where the Jewish people have been and where they are coming from in the 21st century," said Rabbi Frederick L. Wenger, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City.

    "Hansen's Law" helps explain that need to pass history through generations, he said. It is the notion that what the second generation chooses to forget, the third chooses to remember.

    Different faiths and cultures keep their histories alive in their own way. Some Mormon families encourage their youths to go on handcart expeditions that reenact the migration of Latter-day Saint pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. Across the world, the March of the Living program brings Jewish youths to Poland to study the Holocaust and how it was rooted in hatred and intolerance. A generation of Jews more than a half-century removed from it visit a concentration camp and pray there, then go to Israel and pray there as well.

    The stories convey something else important, Breitbart said. "Don't forget that this did not start in some backwards, Third World country. It was a country technologically advanced in so many ways and responsible for some of the best forces in civilization … including Bach and Beethoven. That it happened in one of the most modern countries in the world is a warning anything can happen and it can happen anywhere. Perhaps the liberties we have are not to be taken for granted."

    Life lesson

    Kristallnacht is particularly dramatic, amid all the violence of the Holocaust, Wenger said. The Nazis "struck out at all the visible signs they could find of Jewish accomplishment, both material and historical. It galvanized our community and remains a symbol of everything the Holocaust became.

    "That kind of direct attack at the symbols of a culture's accomplishment is something we have to watch for."

    It is also not, he noted, an isolated moment in world history.

    Ignoring bigotry because it doesn't target you is a big mistake, Breitbart said. "Haters are generally equal opportunity bigots."

    Lesser, who lives in Las Vegas, believes hatred in all forms needs to be confronted. "We have to keep the world from acquiring amnesia — or it will happen again and again. It all started with hate and propaganda. Bystanders did nothing. It starts as young as school age as bullying. This is where it begins. When you bully, you make an enemy for life. Why not help, why not love instead of hate. If you see someone being bullied, do something about it."


    Remembering: The night of the broken glass

    This article was published more than 10 years ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

    There were tears that come with such a parting, a 12-year-old boy leaving his parents to live with strangers far away, but they dried in a current of excitement as the train rumbled out of Berlin's Zoo Station. In his small suitcase were clothes with name tags sewn in by friends of his mother the night before. There was a lunch of chicken soup that would spill long before it could be eaten.

    John Berrys leaned through the open window as the train slowly rolled west, past the bustling Kurfürstendamm where he lived and the villa-lined streets he bicycled to a private Jewish school in the leafy Grunewald district. He said goodbye.

    He had been born Hans Berlinsky on the kitchen table of his family's modest apartment on April 25, 1926, and had a "very ordinary" childhood. Before private school, he had attended a public school down the street, and spent summers in the country with his cousins. Two years earlier, he and his father had attended the Olympic Games held in Berlin.

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    But restrictions under Adolf Hitler's National Socialists made life increasingly difficult for Jews, who were eventually barred from cafés, shops, schools and even the swimming pool the young cousins had enjoyed on their holidays.

    The anti-Semitism escalated mightily with the vicious pogroms that erupted across the country 70 years ago tomorrow, leaving synagogues destroyed, Jewish businesses and homes ransacked and Jewish men under arrest. There was so much shattered glass in the streets that Nov. 9, 1938, is forever damned as Kristallnacht.

    Just three weeks later, young Hans was bound for England on the first of the "Kindertransports," which for the next 10 months carried 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to safety in England. Adults remained, trapped by their misguided belief that things couldn't get much worse. Only one child in 10 would ever see his or her parents again. Else and James Berlinsky eventually boarded a train headed in the opposite direction: east to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

    Even so, Mr. Berrys recalls that he and other children were optimistic that "the whole thing would blow over," and they would soon be reunited with their parents. But not in Berlin. "I never thought I would go back to Germany. I was quite sure at the time."

    And yet now, at 82, here he is. A citizen of Canada, the retired businessman, car buff and father of three from Thornhill, Ont., is taking part in a program that welcomes home Berlin residents, most of them Jewish, who were forced to flee the city from 1933 to 1945. He and his wife, Sherrill, 63, are in a group also drawn from the United States, Australia and Israel. Their hair is thinning, some are in wheelchairs or use walkers, but they have all come for one reason: to see, and make peace with, the new Berlin.

    The week-long itinerary under the starkly titled "invitation program for former persecuted citizens of Berlin" (more commonly called the "Emigranten program") includes a reception with the mayor, a night at the opera, tours of historic and Jewish sites and visits to their old neighbourhoods.

    The city picks up the tab for each returning émigré plus a guest, and has done so for almost 40 years. The program started with a resolution of the Berlin Parliament in 1969, reflecting a growing awareness of the Holocaust in the 1960s and a desire among the postwar generation to address atrocities that their parents had not even acknowledged, let alone apologized for.

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    One of the young Germans, Rüdiger Nemitz, came to work for the program in 1969 as a student, and never left. He had been born in the ruins of Berlin in 1946, to a father who had been in the Hitler Youth, fought in Eastern Europe and, like many Germans, said he didn't know what had been done to the Jews.

    "They did not want to believe it," says the son, now 62.

    Decades later, as Germans accepted the truth, cities across the country, plus Vienna, began to bring back those who had left. Berlin's program prompted "baskets of letters" from around the world, Mr. Nemitz recalls. At the peak, there was a staff of a dozen, and thousands of people waited a decade or more to come.

    In all, 35,000 people have made the journey.

    'SICK WITH JEWS'

    In his autobiographical 1935 novel Goodbye to Berlin (the inspiration for the musical Cabaret), British author Christopher Isherwood describes a Jewish family chased out of town by Nazi cruelty. "This town is sick with Jews!" one Berliner complains.

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    And the capital of the Reich truly was the centre of German Jewry. In 1933, its well-assimilated Jewish community numbered 170,000, one-third of the national total. By the end of the war, almost two-thirds had fled and 56,000 had been killed, leaving only 1,500 who had stayed in hiding and a few who survived the camps.

    A city that once boasted 80 synagogues now has six. Berlin today has 12,500 registered Jews, although many more may be understandably reluctant to declare themselves, says Aubrey Pomerance, a Jewish historian from Calgary who is head of the archives at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

    The museum, which opened in 2001 with an edgy modern design by Daniel Libeskind, portrays the history and culture of Germany's Jews. The Emigranten are guided to its Garden of Exile, where 49 forbidding concrete slabs set on a slope evoke the instability felt by Jews driven out. Later, at supper, Mr. Pomerance encourages the expatriates to donate papers, photos and artifacts of their life in Berlin. So much has been lost and "time is running out," he says, adding that, in many ways, the visitation program is a trade: Berlin learns about its Jewish past, while visitors get to see how the city has changed.

    "It shows people a different face of Germany," Mr. Pomerance says, "and a certain degree of atonement as well." That is what most of the group's 65 members are looking for - in fact, some have already been back on their own and not found it. The Berryses brought their three daughters in 1985, but the Berlin Wall had yet to fall and it was not clear Germany had come to terms with its past.

    At 89, New Jersey resident Max Brack is the group's oldest member, and he recognizes little in the city he left at 18. But for Mr. Berrys, much is familiar in his old neighbourhood. Compact and sprightly, he walks the streets at a brisk pace, never consulting a map as he points out his cousins' apartments and the park where they played.

    A merchant next door tells him that Sybelstrasse 57, the white stucco building where he grew up, is now a condo and the family's old apartment is for sale. Seventy years ago, it was a haven. As life under Hitler grew grim, his father, a scrap-metal broker who had been wounded fighting for Germany in the First World War, made no attempt to leave. He was "one of those people who literally said, 'I'd like to leave on the very last train - and I wouldn't be terribly upset if I missed that, too,'" Mr. Berrys explains.

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    Today, the street is quiet and lined with stores as well as apartments. At No. 10, one called Schalom (German for shalom) sells kosher foods, wine and Judaica, but owner Susanne Kalisch says business is poor because there just are not enough Jews.

    The towering red-brick public school Mr. Berrys attended is now named for Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, a politician who opposed the Nazis and was killed after the 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. According to a plaque on the building, it's a "school without racism, school with courage."

    In 1936, Jews were barred from senior schools, so his parents, with the Jewish community's assistance, sent him to the private academy in the Grunewald, where he finds a street has recently been renamed in honour of Toni Lessler, the woman who ran it.

    It's far from the only memorial the Emigranten come across. In a part of town once known as "Jewish Switzerland" for its prominent residents, such as Albert Einstein and filmmaker Billy Wilder, they find enamel signs high on lampposts, each with an image - a soccer ball or a guitar case - and on the back, a corresponding Nazi decree: "Jews are to be expelled from sports and gymnastics clubs (April 25, 1933)" and "Jews cannot be musicians (March 21, 1935)."

    Put up in 1993, the signs were mistaken at first for anti-Semitic propaganda, but they are in fact installation art, one of the myriad ways in which Berlin now recalls the atrocities committed against its Jews and other groups.

    The smallest and most affecting are Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks): brass plaques set in the sidewalk to commemorate those killed by Nazis, each bearing a name, date of birth plus date of deportation and death. The largest is near the Brandenburg Gate: the recently completed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, or Holocaust Memorial, a vast, undulating field of concrete slabs over a museum.

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    Aubrey Pomerance of the Jewish Museum says many of the memorials are the result of private initiatives that began in the late 1970s with the broadcast of the TV mini-series Holocaust. "Germany is facing up to its genocidal past," he says. "It's not only testimony, it's the preservation of memory … a movement against forgetting."

    ORGY OF VIOLENCE

    As he cycled to school the morning after "the night of broken glass," young Hans Berlinsky noticed that the plate-glass window of the Jewish-owned millinery store next door had been shattered. When he arrived, "everyone had a different story to tell" about the destruction.

    The students were sent home Mr. Berrys rode to the Friedenstempel, a synagogue he had attended with his father, to find it burning. "The firemen were on the street," he says, "but there was no attempt being made to do anything except to protect the adjacent apartment houses."

    The orgy of violence persuaded his parents it was time for him to go. On Dec. 1, he left on the Kindertransport, which had been arranged by Jewish and Quaker groups in England. After reaching the Netherlands and enduring a heaving six-hour voyage across the English Channel, he was met by his uncle, who had moved to England two years earlier.

    He lived with a Jewish family in London, went to school, learned English and in May, 1939, had his bar mitzvah. His parents called during a simple luncheon to mark the occasion. "That was probably the highlight phoning in those days was a big deal." A year later, he finished school and moved to Birmingham to become an auto mechanic, losing track of his parents in the confusion of the war.

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    At 17, he joined the British army, feeling "a sense of obligation toward the country that had given me refuge when others wouldn't." Because he was "a friendly alien," his name had to sound less German, so Berlinsky became Berrys and Hans became John.

    Many of the Emigranten also have new names, and they continually discover ways in which Berlin has become, as its openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, tells them, "a city of change." It now portrays itself as diverse, tolerant, international in outlook and culturally vibrant - after London and Paris, the most visited place in Europe. But there are challenges: Reunification left a staggering debt and more than 17-per-cent unemployment. The city had 4.5 million residents before the war but just 3.4 million today, one in every three a newcomer, Mr. Wowereit adds. "We still need some time to mend."

    The annual budget for the Emigranten Program, once €1.5-million ($2.2-million) has been cut by two-thirds (only Berlin and Hamburg still operate), and the applicants have dwindled to 500. The staff is down to a part-time secretary and Mr. Nemitz, who estimates that demand will dry up in three years and he will retire.

    GAUNT BUT ALIVE When the war ended in the spring of 1945, Mr. Berrys was serving in the Middle East and got word from his uncle that his parents were in a camp for the displaced in southern Germany. After being sent to Theresienstadt in early 1943, they not only stayed alive, they stayed together. His mother (who had been assigned to keep women from using a washroom to commit suicide) had lost 50 pounds.

    Their son could not persuade British authorities to let them into England. But after four years in the camp, they emigrated to New York and he moved to Canada. They were reunited in Montreal in 1951. Soon afterward, his father died, but his mother lived to 94. She returned to Berlin in 1974 as an Emigrant, but her son didn't think of doing the same until someone suggested it last year.

    As well as new friends and a deeper understanding of Berlin, his week in the city brings an invitation from the Jewish Museum to return next year to speak about his boyhood experiences.

    He also attends Saturday services at the venerable Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue, where he worshipped with his father 70 years ago, and visits the former freight depot next to the Grunewald train station, from which most Berlin Jews were sent to the camps. A memorial, called Track 17, commemorates the 35,000 people dispatched from 1941 to 1945.

    Each deportation is recorded on steel plates that run alongside the railway track. Destinations include Auschwitz, Minsk, Riga, Lodz and, of course, Theresienstadt. Jan. 12, 1943, the recorded date of his parents' deportation, has two entries: "100 Juden/Berlin - Theresienstadt" and "1190 Juden/Berlin - Auschwitz."

    Mr. Berrys listens as Molly Johnson, a history professor from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, talks to students on a tour of the "Third Reich and its Legacy." Then he tells them his story. His parents felt that sending him away saved all three, he says, because they never would have survived together.

    He looks across at the train station through which his mother once brought him to play in the shade of the Grunewald and then down at a plaque marking the horror that was to come.

    "Germany," he says, "is terribly, terribly anxious to come to terms with what happened."


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    Having read some "Charles River" books, I am getting used to them. They usually produce a very good account of the subject, with a good selection of sources and some photos, images or maps. I read one of their books on a subject I had read a lot about before, and being very satisfied with that one, I took it as a standard.

    Their books are not to be expected as complete, comprehensive works, but lean more toward a good overall short account. Choose one if the subject is new to you or you want a good overview. They appeal to me as good introductions, or if I have no intention of reading long works on a specific theme. That said, I like them and think they're very effective in providing good information as well as a good read.

    Having read quite a lot on WW II and its time over the years, as well as having seen all those movies, one might come to think he's at least heard about most of what there is to know. So, it is interesting to find something "new", just as was the case of "The Monuments Men" book and movie. Some "Charles River" books, including this one and those listed below provide good information on earlier developments of the Nazi regime, and then on the final moves before the outbreak of war:

    1. (1923) The Beer Hall Putsch: The History and Legacy of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party's Failed Coup Attempt in 1923
    2. (1933) The Burning of the Reichstag: The History of the Controversial Fire That Led to the Rise of Nazi Germany
    3. (1934) The Night of the Long Knives: The History and Legacy of Adolf Hitler's Notorious Purge of the SA
    4. (1938) The Munich Agreement of 1938: The History of the Peace Pact that Failed to Prevent World War II
    5. (1938) Kristallnacht: The History and Legacy of Nazi Germany's Most Notorious Pogrom

    They are listed in chronological order of the events but might be read otherwise. I have also reviewed these.

    This is a short account but goes straight to important points and quotes well known sources such as Ian Kershaw. Although the persecution of Jews is now a broadly known part of the history of that time, this episode was the open beginning of the horror of that dark page of the History of mankind, and as such is an important reading.

    - the information on how coordinated and intentional the action was
    - the general "acceptance" of the actions by the German population
    - international concern and reaction, but also partial lack of action
    - details on facts previously unknown to me, like the assassination of one German embassy officer and its use by the Nazi propaganda machine
    - details of how the actions really happened - all very sad
    - transcripts of remainig official documentation.


    November 10, 1938. That morning the Jews in Germany woke up to the sight of shards of broken glass littered on the streets after their synagogues, shops and houses were burnt down. 91 Jews were killed overnight and the Nazis subjected thousands to terror and violence. The earlier night’s horror, a planned pogram against Germany’s Jews came to be known as the Kristallnacht – the ‘Night of Broken Glass’.

    Exactly eighty years later, million miles away from Germany, a novel-in-stories borrows its title from the same event, often referred to as the beginning of the Holocaust. This time, however, the unspeakable horror plays in a different landscape – Kashmir.

    One can claim, with some surety, that much has been written about Kashmir: for instance, its daily tragedies with multiple strands of narratives, capturing the panoramic view of violence, injustice, sufferings the pulsating human story amidst a raging conflict, and a city that’s decaying in its own blood. Yet, the drama of a forthcoming novel on Kashmir – primarily its conflict – is often a great deal more intense and traumatic to its readers than it is to its creator.

    Every new literary work on Kashmir brings with it some questions, for example: How the language, the narrative, will bear the unbearable? What if the words fail? How to tell the war stories of Kashmir where violence and death are redeemed by a larger purpose? These are questions answered in Feroz Rather’s The Night of Broken Glass, a novel-in-stories threaded together by narratives crisscrossing between characters who, one way or the other, affect each other’s lives.

    Rather’s finely-detailed novel, a fictional take on Kashmir amidst a period of great suffering, is told with authority of experience. Yet, the recurrent, hypnotic imagery moored to the soil of Srinagar and Bijbyor (the author’s hometown), perhaps, adds an authentic date in real time to this novel. And, perhaps, that’s why, in Rather’s novel one might find strong resonance to events and incidents that have changed the course of history in Kashmir in recent time. For example, a boy is shot dead when he goes to meet his militant brother and his father keeps his bullet riddled Pheran as a souvenir. Could that be Khalid Muzaffar, brother of Burhan Wani, the militant commander who was killed in 2016? A tuition going student is shot in his head near a playground, his skull cracked wide open by a teargas shell. Is that Tufail Mattoo, whose killing sparked an uprising in 2010, claiming more than 130 lives?

    This, perhaps, is the reason that Rather in one of his interviews claims that he strongly shares a “reporter’s and the memoirist’s impulse”.

    Divided into 13 chapters, The Night of Broken Glass, an incredible feat of plotting, pace and language, is arresting, both as the story of people it features, whose lives intersect each other, and as a history of Kashmir’s bloody conflict. However, the most striking part of the novel is how Rather has been able to bring forth the issues of faith, gender and caste, making them an intricate part of his story.

    Rather in his novel also speaks explicitly about the violence in Kashmir as violence itself. His words are mined with strange menace, which slowly dissolve throughout the novel and perturb everything in its wake by its visceral imagery, capturing sprawling tale of horror and the absurdity of Kashmir’s conflict. ‘

    To understand the living in Kashmir, many might say, it is necessary to begin with the dead. That’s why, perhaps, Rather begins his novel by telling the story of a dying old man, who used to murder at will.

    While there are people in the novel who bear the brunt of the conflict one way or the other, it is the ever-so-present rage, passion, sentiment, love, hatred ­– a cocktail of raw human emotions – in equal measures, that form the only true character in Rather’s novel.

    However, the most fascinating part of the novel is not its stories or the characters, but the setting – the ­­homes, streets, alleys – that radiate the ethical uncertainty and confusion that only comes from enduring a war-without-end. This is where Rather’s terse, relentlessly readable novel, that feels like poetry, comes across as sharply observed and psychologically penetrating.

    While much will be written about the characters in Rather’s novel – Major S and his willful brutality, Ilham the militant and his revenge, Gulam and his understanding of conflict – the real champion, however, in the stories that feature is the stagnant city, the silent sufferer amidst all the chaos.

    In The Night of Broken Glass, the city howls at night, a sense of dread rises, perhaps, waiting for an outpour of grief or a plaintive holler. The next minute a car passes through a bridge and the driver is shot with countless bullets. The city continues to live next day. Another day, another killing. That’s Kashmir. Nothing changes.

    Impregnated with deep affinities of revolutionary spirit, The Night of Broken Glass is a mournful song, an elegy to the people of Kashmir, who live and die in equal measures.

    After I finished reading the novel, I had this strange unsettling feeling. It reminded me of something I witnessed two years ago.

    The year was 2016. Kashmir was seething in anger. The death of Burhan Wani had brought a flood of people on the streets. Most of them were young – their blood flowing through streets, without much fuss, like blood. More than sixty people had already been killed and newspapers across the world were featuring dead, blind eyes of young Kashmiris on the front pages.

    Inside a Srinagar hospital, I met an injured boy from South Kashmir who had been hit by pellets in the eyes. He recounted to me a nightmare he had been having since a week.

    “I have this recurring dream,” he started, his blood-shot eyes fixed towards his mother who sat next to him.

    He then continued. “I am sitting on a riverbank – perhaps, Jhelum –, and its waters flow with such ferocity that I feel its currents deep inside my skin. I can’t see a thing because my eye sockets are filled with sand. But I hear mournful cries of men, women, children and old. They scream all night, and when the voices stop I regain my vision but see no one around. There’s no blood, no dead bodies, just broken glass. What does it mean?”

    I had no answers. But had it been today, I would have read that boy from South Kashmir few verses from the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska that very well captures Kashmir’s everyday tragedy.

    Feroz Rather uses the same verses as the epigraph for The Night of Broken Glass. It reads: “History didn’t greet us with triumphal fanfares/ It flung dirty sand into our eyes.”


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