The Miracle that is Israel – Remembering Kristallnacht

“Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom…” – Esther 3:6

Mark Twain once tried to explain the miracle of Israel: “The Jews are but ¼ of 1% of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. The Jew ought hardly be heard of; but he has always been heard of. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine and learning are way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. The Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then passed away; the Greek and Roman followed, made a vast noise, and they were gone. The Jew saw and survived them all. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of the Jews’ immortality?” From the Egyptian Pharaoh, to the Assyrian King Sennacherib, to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, to the Roman King Herod, to today’s enemy nations of Iran, Iraq, Syria and other Arab nations, Israel has survived and even thrived despite their attempts to annihilate her.

Our verse this week is taken from the Old Testament book of Esther, where the story of how the Canaanite prince Haman plotted in 480 BC to destroy the nation of Israel out of sheer hatred for the Jews. But as history records, it was Haman who was destroyed when “deliverance for the Jews arose from another place.” (Esther 4:14). This past week commemorated another historical event that is eerily similar.

Last week, on November 9th, was the 80th anniversary of “Kristallnacht”. Most of us were preoccupied with the midterm elections, so we didn’t recognize the significance of that day in 1938. It was the match that lit the start of the greatest attempt of genocide the world has ever seen.

“Kristallnacht” means “Night of Broken Glass”, based on the amount of broken storefront windows throughout Berlin as the Nazi party began attacking Jewish businesses not only in Berlin but throughout Germany and Austria. But that day was much more sinister than just breaking storefront windows.

The Nazis torched nearly 250 synagogues throughout Germany, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses, and murdered close to 100 Jews. Soon after Kristallnacht, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to the Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, which were specifically built by the Nazis to hold Jews and enemies of the Nazi party.

Hitler became Germany’s Chancellor in January 1933, and had begun the persecution of Jews living in Germany almost immediately, but his Nazi policies toward Jews were primarily nonviolent. What sparked this first widespread violent strike against the Jewish community?

On November 7, 1938, a 17-year old Jewish teenager named Herschel Grynszpan murdered German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris, as retaliation against the Nazi party for exiling his parents to Poland. Adolf Hitler attended Rath’s funeral. Hitler’s Nazi minister for propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, seized upon this incident to incite Hitler’s supporters to carry out Kristallnacht two days later.

Historian Alan E. Steinweis explains the “Night of Broken Glass” this way: “The Kristallnacht was a monumental development in Nazi anti-Jewish policy for several reasons. It was the single instance of large-scale public and organized physical violence against Jews in Germany before the Second World War. It unfolded in the open, in hundreds of German communities, even those with very few Jewish residents, and took place partly in broad daylight. It inaugurated the definitive phase of so-called Aryanisation: the coerced expropriation of German-Jewish property… It was the culmination of a brutal trajectory.”

As the world condemned his actions but did not take any action themselves, Hitler grew bolder. He began implementing his “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem,” systematically murdering over 6 million Jews in what is known as the Holocaust. It wasn’t until September 1939, nearly one year later, when Germany invaded Poland, that World War II started. On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide as Nazi Germany was defeated. Like Haman in the Book of Esther, who was hanged by the King because “he tried to lay his hands on the Jews” (Esther 8:7), Hitler’s plans brought about his own destruction.

As Esther 9:1 says, “The enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.” As we remember Kristallnacht, may the United States always remain an ally of Israel, God’s people whom He will always defend.

“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance” – Article #321

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