“Our father took me and my little sister in his arms that night,
and said, ‘this is the beginning of a very difficult time, and we’ll try to live through it’.”
Ruth Winkelmann remembering The Night of Broken Glass
(United States Holocaust Museum)
The greatest gift that all of us can give to our country as patriotic Americans
is to live out our lives as faithful Catholic Americans who have been entrusted
with the fullness of faith and the fullness of divine life and the fullness of power
without which our country will not endure.
Dr. Scott Hahn
from A Father Who Keeps His Promises
I don’t think Dr. Hahn would mind me substituting “faithful Christian American”
in place of “faithful Catholic American—as I think it is a most fitting assertion…
in that, it is a gift that all Believers should be offering—
as in a gift given from ourselves to ourselves and to our fellow countrymen…
those who are Believers as well as to our non-believing kinsmen.
What better example could we the faithful be but that of good and patriotic Americans!
Those who possess humility, kindness, charity, and that of a law-abiding zest for living.
As in, we the people, who have been the entrusted caregivers of this Nation…
a nation founded 244 years ago. We are her stewards.
As that was the legacy and hope of our Founding Fathers.
Yet, in most recent weeks, we have been witness to a life far from that of caring…
a life far from one of stewardship.
(Protesters attempt to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square near the White House/
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)
(Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG/ Long Beach, California)
(Minnesota protesters topple a statue of Christopher Columbus)
Even our cousins across the great pond have gotten in on the act.
In fact, most of the countries which make up our 21st-century Western Civilization
have devolved into a disastrous maelstrom of violence and hate.
Last week when I wrote a post lamenting this current reign of madness, a fellow blogger
commented that we are actually experiencing our own Kristallnacht…
the night of broken glass.
I was dumbfounded.
It was as if I had been struck by lightning.
It was a revelation.
And I was amazed at the eerie similarity.
And so for those of you who are unfamiliar with Kristallnacht or for those who do not
know their history…and particularly since this current cultural civil war seems to be
falling woefully short any sort of knowledge of history or the past…
let me share with you a brief look backward.
When one googles “history repeating itself” a myriad of sites pop up dedicated to the notion
that history does indeed repeat itself…no ifs, ands or buts.
Many scholars and historians both believe that this phenomenon takes place after a
4 generational time frame.
Meaning, it takes four generations to see a re-cycle of time and events.
And according to Wikipedia “a generation is
“all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively.”
It can also be described as, “the average period, generally considered to be
about 20–30 years, during which children are born and grow up,
become adults, and begin to have children.”
According to the United States Holocaust Museum,
Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, took place during two nights
in November, the 9th and 10th, of 1938.
1938 is 82 years ago—a division of 4 being 20.5 years
The term ‘night of broken glass’ comes from the fact that the streets of numerous cities
across Germany, those two nights in 1938, were littered with millions of shards of glass coming
from the smashed and shattered windows of storefronts, synagogues, and homes…all properties
of the Jewish population—a result of riots instigated by Nazi Party members
and the Hitler youth.
The Jews were blamed collectively for what was at the time was an apparent
The violence was instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members
of the SA (Sturmabteilungen: commonly known as Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth.
In its aftermath, German officials announced that Kristallnacht had erupted
as a spontaneous outburst of public sentiment in response to the assassination
of Ernst vom Rath.
Vom Rath was a German embassy official stationed in Paris.
Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, had shot the diplomat on November 7, 1938.
A few days earlier, German authorities had expelled thousands of Jews of Polish citizenship
living in Germany from the Reich; Grynszpan had received news that his parents,
residents in Germany since 1911, were among them.
Grynszpan’s parents and the other expelled Polish Jews were initially denied entry
into their native Poland. They found themselves stranded in a refugee camp near
the town of Zbaszyn in the border region between Poland and Germany.
Already living illegally in Paris himself, a desperate Grynszpan apparently
sought revenge for his family’s precarious circumstances by appearing at the German embassy
and shooting the diplomatic official assigned to assist him.
Vom Rath died on November 9, 1938, two days after the shooting.
The day happened to coincide with the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch,
an important date in the National Socialist calendar. The Nazi Party leadership,
assembled in Munich for the commemoration, chose to use the occasion as a pretext
to launch a night of antisemitic excesses.
Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, a chief instigator of the Kristallnacht pogroms,
suggested to the convened Nazi ‘Old Guard’ that ‘World Jewry’ had conspired to commit
the assassination. He announced that “the Führer has decided that…
demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the Party,
but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered.”
Now, let us look at a few similarities…
The “spontaneous” riots in 1938 were the result of the outrage over a wrongful death.
In the case of Germany, it was an assassination of a low-level government official.
In the US it was the death of an unarmed petty criminal.
In both cases, riots were instigated under the pretext of these wrongful deaths.
Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who we know is credited with instigating
Germany’s “riots”, noted that Hitler had called for no organized demonstrations by
Party officials but that if things happened spontaneously…well, then so be it.
The turning of the blind eye.
And so we ask ourselves, how many in our own government raised a voice during the past
month decrying the civil unrest taking place across our nation?
What of those in our media?
What public figures raised their voices crying out that enough is enough?
Other than the President and his inner circle, what elected official has denounced
Rather, our media and leadership are siding with and even encouraging the agitators–
they claim that nothing is wrong with the destruction of businesses, livelihoods,
churches, or monuments.
Now whereas some claims have been made that when Hitler came to power,
he defunded and disbanded the German police—
but in actuality, the opposite is the case.
But it was at a dire cost.
The United States Holocaust Museum continues…
Nazi state in fact alleviated many of the frustrations the police experienced
in the Weimar Republic.
The Nazis shielded the police from public criticism by censoring the press.
They ended street fighting by eliminating the Communist threat.
Police manpower was even extended by the incorporation of Nazi paramilitary organizations
as auxiliary policemen.
The Nazis centralized and fully funded the police to better combat criminal gangs
and promote state security.
The Nazi state increased staff and training, and modernized police equipment.
The Nazis offered the police the broadest latitude in arrests, incarceration,
and the treatment of prisoners.
The police moved to take “preventive action,” that is,
to make arrests without the evidence required for a conviction in court and
indeed without court supervision at all.
Conservative policemen were initially satisfied with the results of their cooperation
with the Nazi state.
Crime did indeed go down and the operation of criminal gangs ended.
Order was restored.
But there was a price.
The Nazi state was not a restoration of the imperial tradition.
It was at its core thoroughly racist.
The Nazis took control and transformed the traditional police forces of the Weimar Republic
into an instrument of state repression and, eventually, of genocide.
The Nazi state fused the police with the SS and Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst; SD),
two of the most radical and ideologically committed Nazi organizations.
Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, also became the chief of all German police forces.
But the most egregious capitulation actually came from an unlikely organization—
that being the Chruch.
From the beginning of Nazi rule and the fateful years leading up to them,
Germany’s traditional spiritual and moral leaders failed to speak out against
hateful speech, violence.
After 1933, they failed to speak out against legal measures that progressively
stripped Jews of their rights.
Some church leaders, particularly within the more nationalistic “German Christian”
movement of the Protestant Evangelical Church, enthusiastically supported
the Nazi regime.
Only a small minority of religious leaders, ministers, and priests,
usually in isolated parishes, spoke out against Nazi racism, gave Sunday sermons
decrying the persecution of Germany’s Jews, provided aid, or hid Jews.
Without the support of their leaders and institutions,
voices of dissent had little effect.
Churches in communities across Germany also facilitated the implementation of racial laws
by providing baptismal records,
a proof of non-Jewish descent.
Church responses to the persecution of Jews were shaped by traditional forms of
religious antisemitism with deep roots in Christian history.
Clergy and church leaders were also influenced by larger political and social trends
in Germany after World War I, including rising nationalism and of special importance for the churches,
the fear of “Godless Communism” after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia,
which led to left-wing revolutionary activities in Germany.
Support for the repression of communism and the need to restore Germany’s economy
and status as a world power usually outweighed church leaders’ distaste for the
“un-Christian,” racialized thinking, and “paganism” many of them saw in Nazism.
By the time of Kristallnacht, the violent assault on Jews of November 9-10, 1938,
no church leader of influence spoke out to protest and in this,
they shared the complicity of university, business, and military leaders who were also
silent during events of which many disapproved or had qualms.
By this time, as the orgy of violence and terror of Kristallnacht showed,
it was probably too late. The Nazi regime had total control of public discourse and
spaces and of the tools of repression which became even harsher once war began,
from imprisonment without trial in a concentration camp to execution.
So where I have been going this week with all this talk about callings, vocations,
civil unrest, radicalism, capitulation, Nazi’s, police, The Chruch, the madness???
I’ll tie this all together tomorrow…