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The 76th Anniversary of Kristallnacht


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By Rabbi R. Mermelstein, from 1998 60th Anniversary original.


The night of November 9-10, 1938, Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass), was hardly unique for the Jews of Germany. Four centuries earlier, the German Senate had voted to strip Jews of their right to take up residence anywhere they pleased. It was decided to herd German Jews into a fetid, overcrowded, walled ghetto with gates that were locked from sundown until sunrise and on Sundays during Protestant church services. This ghetto came to be called "Judengasse" (Jews Street). In the 16th century, the German Senate commissioned a woodcut to adorn the gate of Judengasse: Jews, suckling from the teats of a fat sow pig, wearing the mandated flat, round hat to identify a Jew, the precursor of the yellow Star of David armbands seen in World War II era photos of Jews under Nazi rule. The woodcut included two rabbis with their tongues at the pig's rectum. The caption under the relief read, "Drink, Jews, drink its milk. Rabbi, eat its excrement." A man with a pointed beard, personifying the Devil, looked on with delighted approval.

Jews wishing to leave Judengasse on business or any private affair were required to pay a tax. Disease and filth in the streets, houses and shops crammed into every available inch of space all but stifled the sun's light and the flow of fresh air. Despite the miserable squalor, Jewish life and Torah scholarship thrived. Amazingly, enterprising Jews built wealth and even fortunes in spite of the tax levied on any Jew wishing to exit. The 18th century saw the fledgling coin and medallion trade of Meyer Anshel Rothchild grow into the Rothchild banking empire. In the historical context, Kristallnacht was a mere footnote in the annals of German Jewry.

For those Jews at the time who truly believed that "Hitler mania" was nothing more than a passing fad, Kristallnacht might have generated second thoughts. The morning after the Nazi government rampage, just as they had done so many times before, Jews once again repaired and rebuilt the ruin caused by a government appalled by the specter of the despised "Jude" in the Fatherland. Not surprisingly, the amendment to the Nazi Weapons Law of 1938, which took effect the day after Kristallnacht, was an inconsequential event hardly worth discussing by Jews at the time. This amendment proscribing Jews from "acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons," had little practical effect.

Whether because of laws or their personal customs, most Jews did not keep guns for any reason. The "utensils of Esau," the hunter and errant son of our patriarch, Isaac, were strange and unclean to the progeny of Jacob, Isaac's gentle and reverent son. The Jews are Jacob's children. What did a Jew need with a gun? Within two years following Kristallnacht, the question of what did a Jew need with a gun was answered. Centuries of Jewish cultural abhorrence for the utensils of Esau were in large part responsible for Jewish mass graves. The tools used by the *gentile* Esau as the means to take life had a beneficial "flip side:" these tools could also prevent the taking of lives.

This basic fragment of logic somehow escaped Jewish intellectual giants, thoroughly versed in the intricate sea of the Talmud with all its commentaries. This boggles the modern mind ... or does it? Recently, a non-Jewish historian with a doctorate in anthropology, remarked to me that Jews consistently score several points higher on any test used to measure intelligence quotients. He noted that Jews, having always placed such a strong emphasis on education, marry and bear offspring, whereas non-Jews who score unusually high on such tests tend to remain single or childless to pursue careers. He commented that, in effect, the better minds of the non-Jewish population remove themselves from the gene pool.

I submit that any such intelligence inherent in the Jewish gene pool is a tremendous aid in collecting college degrees or becoming moguls and captains in academia, government and business. For the general good and continued existence of my people, the Jewish nation, would that I were able to trade all this brain power for ordinary Common Sense!

We, the survivors and children of the survivors of this century's attempt to annihilate the Jewish nation, with all our collective intellectuality, continue to march at the forefront of the crusade in America to implement and enforce the Nazi Weapons Law of 1938! Damn our inherent intelligence and, for the love of G-d Almighty, let us acquaint ourselves with Common Sense! We have allowed ourselves to be drugged by the security offered in America, just as the Jews of Germany dismissed with a wave of the hand that their lives would be snatched from them as easily as were their glass storefronts on Kristallnacht.

Enough!

The Bible, in relating the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egyptian bondage (Exodus, 13:18) says "...the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt." The Hebrew word "chamushim" is translated as "armed".Rashi, the 11th century classic commentator on the Bible and the Talmud, cites another explanation, from the ancient Mechilta, of "chamushim". It is derived from the Hebrew word for the number 5 (chomash) to tell us thatonly one out of five Jews in Egypt left with Moses and Aaron. The other four fifths were slain by G-d during the plague of Darkness meted out by G-d upon the Egyptians to induce Pharaoh to free the Israelites.

Fully 80% of the Hebrew slaves were content with their lives in secure Egypt -- they desired to remain even as slaves rather than face the hardships and uncertainties of a journey in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses! These Israelites, drunk with Egyptian security, would destroy the morale of the newly freed slaves. The elimination of such sluggards was deemed by G-d as essential to His plan for His people. This same scenario is playing out again, right now, in America--millions of Jews are drunk with the opium of security in America.

In Germany, Jews said things like: "Hitler is a passing fad", "Kristallnacht was an isolated occurrence", "We will be set free from the labor camps and returned to our homes soon." Just excuses for avoiding the truth. Compare such utterances with: "The Gun Control Act of 1968 is in the best interests of us true gun-owning sportsmen", "Let the government take whatever they consider a Saturday Night Special; I own only quality handguns", "The Brady Act is good; it will keep guns out of the hands of criminals!" or, "I've been a hunter (target shooter, trap or skeet competitor) for 30 years! I've never had any use for military-style rifles with high capacity magazines." More excuses, more avoiding the truth.

It's true: common sense is uncommon. This 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht ought to serve as an alarm for Jews to use their heads for something other than following the media coverage of a 77 year-old U.S. Senator going into orbit around the Earth. Apparently, the Senator's publicity stunt is far more engaging than, say, the calculated, government sanctioned butchering of thousands of unarmed ethnic Albanians. My common sense tells me we haven't seen the last Kristallnacht yet.

With pain for my people and all humanity,
Rabbi R. Mermelstein


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