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Piecing Together the Broken Glass

Binyamin Rose, Berlin

There is no continent where anti-Semitism played, and continues to play, as strong a role in Jews’ daily lives as in Europe. On the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Mishpacha’s news editor Binyamin Rose visited Berlin, where it all began. Despite encouraging growth and renewed commitment, eerie echoes of past hatred are all too audible on this blood-soaked continent. Is there a future for Jewish life in Europe?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Berlin, GermanyThe passage of 75 years has not dimmed Eli Fachler’s vivid memories of crouching, frozen in horror, on the night of November 9, 1938, peering out the window in his family’s home at the synagogue across the courtyard, as Nazi marauders burned the shul — where his father served as gabbai — to the ground.

It was the night that became known as Kristallnacht — the night of the broken glass. Dozens of Jews were killed, thousands of Jewish homes and institutions destroyed and plundered. The shards of broken glass that littered the streets ofGermanyandAustriaon that night signified an end to Jewish life inEurope, and the beginning of the ravages of the Holocaust. 

Eli Fachler was only 15 then, but on this same night last Sunday, 75 years later, he stood upright and proud at the podium in front of the aron kodesh at Berlin’s Beit Zion Synagogue, rebuilt on the ashes of the structure that burned before his eyes that night.

The occasion was Berlin’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, timed in concert with the 28th biennial convention of the Conference of European Rabbis. Speaking in fluent German to an audience of rabbanim, Jewish community leaders, and German government officials, Fachler relived how his parents were subsequently whisked away to concentration camps, and eventually, his own flight fromBerlin on the Kindertransport.

In front of the packed audience, including members of an international press corps that filled an upstairs gallery, Fachler made a shehecheyanu in the new Beit Zion. In the presence of his children and grandchildren, he held aloft the shofar and the slightly tarnished silver Kiddush cup that his Uncle Gershon, the shul’s chazzan, rescued from the burning embers of the synagogue.

His appearance was the epitome of the ultimate triumph of the Jew over his enemies, a sentiment echoed by Hans-Peter Friedrich,Germany’s minister of the interior. “Germany’s 110,000 Jews are a matter of national pride and also a reminder to us not to let our guard down in the continuing fight against any and all manifestations of anti-Semitism,” he said.


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