Kristallnacht: LSTC student reflects on German remembrance of dual events

November 8, 2022

As an assistant to worship in LSTC’s Augustana Chapel and one of a handful of German students studying at LSTC, Miriam Schmidle has a unique perspective regarding the seminary’s observation of Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass.”

LSTC, along with its Center for Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice, will sponsor its annual commemoration of Kristallnacht in chapel at 11:15 a.m. CST, Thursday, Nov. 10.

Each year, LSTC remembers the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when Nazi authorities coordinated a massive attack on Jewish businesses, homes, synagogues and cemeteries across Germany and the Reich’s annexed territory in Austria and Czechoslovakia. In addition to the attacks, Germany stepped up imprisonment of Jewish people in concentration camps under the guise of a popular outcry against a recent assassination of a German embassy official.

Schmidle, a second-year MDiv student, explained she had a close relationship with her grandmother, a young woman during “Nazi Time,” the years that the Nazi Party controlled Germany. So, she was able to hear about the time from someone who witnessed first-hand the violent antisemitism of that time.

“I think it is important to talk about it (so) that something like that cannot happen again,” she said. “People need to be aware of the sights of that time and people need to stand up if something like that is happening again. And the sad thing is that it can happen all around the world.”

Germany became a divided nation after World War II, with East Germany walled off by the Soviet Union. That “Iron Curtain” and the separation of Eastern Bloc countries from the rest of Europe remained until the end of the Cold War. In coincidental “bookends” of German history, the Kristallnacht events in 1938 would occur 51 years to the day before the Berlin Wall was torn down on Nov. 9, 1989. So, Nov. 9-10 has become a double commemoration for Germans today.

Schmidle said very few Germans today witnessed the shameful events of “Nazi Time,” including Kristallnacht. Of course, they learned about it in school and heard about it from parents or grandparents. It is certainly not something about which Germans are proud or want to recall.

However, most remember a divided Germany, and are more connected to celebration of the Wall coming down and a reunited Germany in 1989.

“I think that is why celebrating the coming down of the Berlin Wall at the same date seems to be more important in Germany in our days,” she said.

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