Kristallnacht: A missed anniversary

Sophie Golub

News Editor

The 72nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, on November 9, almost passed before I noticed. It was around 8:30 p.m. when I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across a friend’s status that commemorated the anniversary. At first, I disregarded it, but soon thereafter, I was embarrassed. I am a Jewish teenager who has attended Jewish day school and summer camp for over 14 years, completed over a dozen Jewish Studies classes, visited Holocaust museums around the world, and read and studied the horrors of the Holocaust over and over again. With all of this in mind, how could I have forgotten this anniversary?

It embarrassed me, it saddened me, but it also got me thinking.  After conversing with other Milken students, it became evident to me that I was not the only student who forgot about the anniversary.  This isn’t a reassuring thought; it is terrifying that so many students from a Jewish day school did not remember Kristallnacht’s anniversary.

It is distressing to think that kids who have learned so much about the Holocaust could forget – or at least not be aware of – one of the key points of its history. Kristallnacht’s anniversary is a remembrance day; by definition, it is a day for us to bring to mind the tragedy and events that ushered in the Holocaust. On that “Night of Broken Glass,” Nazi soldiers ransacked Jewish homes and shops and set fire to Jewish books. Not long after, the Germans began transporting Jews to concentration camps.  We need to acknowledge Kristallnacht so that similar atrocities will never happen again.

I do not want another year to pass when Milken students are unaware of the anniversary of Kristallnacht. And so, I have considered ways in which I could help the school address this issue.

Maybe we could have a town meeting to honor the day. But then I remembered the dozens of town meetings we have throughout the year and realized that one more, no matter how important or interesting, would only bore the students.  How about a reading assignment about the Holocaust? But another assigned reading book would just become a chore for students. A simple announcement in the Daily Bulletin or Wildcat Weekly could work, but a 45-second briefing might quickly be forgotten by lunch.

So if all of these ideas might not work, what would?

Considering the aforementioned possibilities, I personally believe that a day devoted to the study of the Holocaust would be the best way to give students the means to acknowledge and observe this historical day. Some students may not appreciate this kind of learning experience, but that is up to the students to decide.  We don’t have to dedicate a full day to the event– perhaps just a few hours.  In advisories, or a few class periods, the students could watch a movie about the Holocaust or Kristallnacht, visit the Museum of Tolerance or the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, or help an organization that prevents modern-day genocides, like Jewish World Watch.

I suggest this idea as a way for students to find a stronger connection to this significant event and at the very least to reconfirm the historical facts about the atrocities that occurred. As students of Milken, it’s not just about recognizing and acknowledging Kristallnacht, but it’s about teaching and observing crucial historical moments that define our Judaism, allowing us to lead enriched, Jewish lives.

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