Many of you reading this may not have heard of the term “Kristallnacht” but it’s important that we learn from it.
By 1938 it became clear that Adolph Hitler, who led Germany, wanted to eliminate all Jews from German soil, and many were already being deported to Poland. In Paris, a 17 year old Jew named Hershel Grynszpan learned that his family was among those deported. He decided to take matters into his own hands and went to the German Embassy in Paris and demanded to see the ambassador. This obviously didn’t happen, but a low level diplomat named Ernst Vom Rath did meet with him. Mr. Grynszpan then shot him to death.
And even though this was a simple murder in Paris, the Nazi’s reacted with rage. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels ordered Nazi Storm Troopers to respond with “spontaneous demonstrations” against Jewish buildings and businesses. On the night of November 9th, they did just that. Kristallnacht translates to “The Night of the Broken Glass” and on that night over 7500 businesses and synagogues were damaged or destroyed. Additionally about 100 Jews were killed.
This night chills us not only because of the damage (and German police and fire were instructed not to interfere) but also the aftermath. Germany demanded that Jews pay them the equivalent of $400 million for the murder of Mr. Vom Rath; they also confiscated their businesses and collected the insurance money. Simply put, this was the exact definition blaming the victim. Because Mr. Vom Rath was murdered by a Jew, all Jews were at fault and any revenge was justified.
Why does this matter 80 years later? I’m not claiming that we are in danger of experiencing this again, but I do think our current President leverages a deep seeded fear of immigrants to his own advantage and uses some of the same tools. Famously, when he announced his candidacy in 2015 he told us that Mexico is sending us drug dealers, criminals and rapists.
I’ll be the first to recognize that not everybody to comes to our nation (legally or otherwise) respects our laws. But just as Hershel Grynszan didn’t act on behalf of all Jews, a single Mexican criminal doesn’t mean all Mexicans are criminals.
I’ve written about this previously, but in the days leading up to recent elections, our President sent 5200 active duty military and 2100 reservists to the Mexican border to combat a caravan of men, women, and children who are walking here to escape violence in their own countries.
The President portrays them as invaders. But this caravan is thousands of miles away and already outnumbered by the troops at the border (who are not allowed to interact with them.
Yes, he’s blaming the victims. Let’s look 80 years back and tell him that we won’t fall for it again.