Thursday marks the 85th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, the traumatic event in which the Nazis, alongside German citizens, burned and vandalized over 1,400 Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues, murdered 91 Jews and arrested 30,000 Jewish men who were sent to concentration camps.
Kristallnacht symbolizes a turning point in the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and remains a painful reminder of that dark period. The closeness of the dates to the October 7 massacre, here in Israel, reopens the wound. Tuesday marked one month since the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel, in which 1,400 people were murdered, most of them civilians, and 239 hostages were abducted, including children, the elderly, women and men.
Amid the current war and the 85th anniversary of the events of Kristallnacht, Holocaust survivors say the again feel unsafe as Jews. The war resulted in an alarming wave of anti-Semitism around the world, with a sharp increase of about 500 percent in hate crimes targeting Jews and Israelis. Due to this charged and threatening reality, the International March of the Living organization speaks out for Holocaust survivors, who are disturbed and worried by the sights and sounds that have recently become even more intense.
"Jews have not felt so threatened since the Holocaust," says Holocaust survivor Gabriela Karin, 92, born in Bratislava and currently living in Los Angeles. "What happened on October 7, alongside the wave of anti-Semitism, turns my stomach. Israel and the Jewish community around the world are fighting for their very existence. The Jewish state, Israel, is determined to eradicate Hamas at any cost and therefore they must receive our support. Our lives depend on it," Gabriela added.
Tirtzah Halbani, 89, was born in Gilgen, Germany, and currently lives in Ramat Hasharon: "As a child, I experienced the Kristallnacht pogrom. I was four years old when the Gestapo soldiers broke into our home on Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938. They beat my father and took him to the Dachau concentration camp, where he perished. On October 7, Hamas came and massacred babies, women and adults. I must say honestly, in all the lectures I give, in Israel, Germany and other places in the world, I am frustrated that even 85 years after the terrible event, we are experiencing it again."
"The barbarity of Hamas equals and almost surpasses what I experienced in the Holocaust," adds Nate (Nathan) Leipziger, 85, a Holocaust survivor from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, who lives in Canada. Leipziger warns: "The Holocaust also began with words and moved to actions. So fight anti-Semitism! Everything that is happening is beyond imagination and too terrible to absorb. This is the most terrible pogrom since the Holocaust. My optimism was shattered. I experienced antisemitism as a child. They called me a 'stinking Jew, go to Palestine '. I was forced to wear the yellow patch, my whole family was murdered in Auschwitz. In no way can I accept that Jews are not safe today, 85 years after the Holocaust. God!"
Holocaust survivor Mania Wallenfels, 88, from San Diego, admits: "I think twice about wearing my Star of David. The terrorist attack on October 7 flooded me with difficult and painful memories. I'm afraid to speak, I don't want them to recognize me and God forbid they come to harm me and my family. Who would have believed that after the Holocaust this would happen again. Should I continue to go to the synagogue? I'm afraid. I feel alienated again."
Eva Cooper, a Holocaust survivor from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp who lives in Canada, sums it up: "As someone who survived the Holocaust as a child, I am horrified by watching the news that brings back the familiar feeling, the anxiety, the fear, there is a feeling of déjà vu. The Holocaust did not start in 1939, it started long before that. We all know the phrase 'never again'. Unfortunately, there are once again those who threaten the existence of the Jews. Antisemitism is on the rise."
International March of the Living Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman: "We were all horrified by the intensity of hatred and the murderous violence of the terrorist organization Hamas. The fact that Jews - children, women, elderly and men, entire families - were burned alive in their homes, in their beds, 85 years after the Kristallnacht pogrom, simply unimaginable. It is clear that the world has not learned the lessons of the Holocaust. Jews are once again being attacked all over the world. This cannot be tolerated. In the testimonies collected by the International March of the Living organization from Holocaust survivors from around the world, after the October 7 massacre and in view of the wave of anti-Semitism that is sweeping the world, the survivors speak of experiencing anxiety to leave the house, to wear the Star of David. Some even asked that their names not be mentioned in the article for fear of their lives and the lives of their families."