80 years ago, mass Jewish pogroms, which are also known under the name “Kristallnacht”, took place in Germany. They ended up not just with material and human loses, but also with a new level of spreading hate and violence, which later became main principles of the Second World War. Hitler’s propaganda, already effectively working for years, achieved during that time its point of escalation – organized groups of the SA and other formations, dressed in civilian attire, and then also ordinary citizens started mass pogroms against all “Jewish” – shops, saloons, living houses and synagogues, providing killings and arrests of civil population. Scattered glass of the shop windows later shaped the name of this night – “Kristallnacht”(night of broken glass) – the symbol of destroyed people’s destinies, whose lives at one moment were transformed into the broken material.
In politician’s speeches and widespread reconciliation campaigns there is often a lack of understanding of what a historical event means for an individual. It is highly improbable to change something inside that order, because that is how collective memory works – we remember and accept these facts, which had been accepted by a previous group of people.
The localization of history works differently, and that’s what could be observed at the example of commemorating the victims of the "crystal night" in the Zionskirche community in the central district of Berlin. The community of the protestant church organized a route with 11 stations where “Stolpersteine” (by the way, it is also a local initiative, Stolpersteine - literally a stumbling block, a stones memorial covered by a brass plate on the road with the name, date of birth and place of death of a person who was murdered by the Nazi regime. Usually it is situated at the place of the last person's residence). During the walk, the organizers told main points of the biographies – when and where the persons were born, how and when moved to this place and in which concentration camp killed. Combined with candles, quiet fleet music and short prayer, this remembrance walk gave unforgettable experience, stronger than any political speech.
But could this way of commemoration be considered as an effective one? Or is it just an unsuccessful attempt to emphasize people with historical issues, which a lot of people are considering as of low importance today? The growing influence of right wing political movements in Germany and in Europe in general seems to confirm the rise of nationalistic ideas in the society. It also means the attempt to change attitudes towards certain historical events and the decision what to remember and what to forget.
One of the participants of the walk, Simon, has his own opinion about the events of November 9th. “The Pogrom had a terrifying and violent character. It was a mass wave, where ordinary people are under ideological propaganda influence, openly showed hatred and violence against neighbors and other fellow Jewish citizens, just because “the Jews are the enemies”. That had not been possible without the participation of the people, who supported the regime. It is very important to remember this day, and by such small events like this one. With a common spirit and the special meaning for all of us. I would say, it is more authentic, despite the fact, that for each person it has different reflection”.
This example shows, how the small local initiatives could serve as a first step to the big discussion and how serious issues could be heard by people. Because sooner or later, it is necessary to understand and accept, to be able to not repeat the same mistakes of history again.
Link to the event: