Voices to remind us

It is now 80 years since Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass – and memories are gradually fading. Experts warn against letting this happen.

Stolpersteine: Brass plaques to commemorate Holocaust victims
Stolpersteine: Brass plaques to commemorate Holocaust victims dpa

Remembering is personal. Remembering is political. Remembering is uncomfortable. Forgetting is easy. Synagogues in Germany were torched on 9 November 1938. During “Kristallnacht”, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, Jewish businesses were trashed and Jews attacked, humiliated and killed. Today, the victims of these November pogroms are commemorated all over Germany on this day. Experts warn that we must not forget.

Dr. Meron Mendel
Dr Meron Mendel is the director of the Anne Frank educational centre in Frankfurt am Main. Originally from Israel, Dr Mendel studied educational science in Germany.

Dr Meron Mendel

“Respect demands that we remember the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated during the Shoah. We owe it to the victims, the survivors and their families. And to ourselves. Since the early 1950s, there have been calls at regular intervals for a line to be drawn under the whole business. When people call for a 180 degree turn in commemorative policy, this is a desire to stop commemorating the victims of National Socialism. The notion that this could close a chapter on this era contradicts every finding of historical research. There is in fact consensus that major historical events continue to have an impact into the present day.”

Professor Ulrich Herbert
Ulrich Herbert is a professor of recent and modern history at the University of Freiburg. A Leibniz prize-winner, Professor Herbert has authored numerous publications on the period of National Socialism.

Professor Ulrich Herbert

“The term ‘remembering’ involves something of a misunderstanding. Most people today cannot ‘remember’ the Nazi period because they did not experience it. They therefore rely on knowledge that has been passed down. In Israel, when I asked people how young Germans should behave towards the Nazi era, the answer was that they shouldn’t. They should just be extremely well-informed about it.”

Katja Demnig
Katja Demnig is an educator at the STOLPERSTEINE art memorial project and a trustee board member of the foundation Stiftung – Spuren – Gunter Demnig. The Stolpersteine are brass plaques installed in the pavement to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

Katja Demnig

“A thriving culture of remembrance is not about wagging the finger at particular countries or peoples, but about remembering important events that led to a terrible war, endless suffering and millions of victims. It serves as a warning and an important reminder for everyone that the mistakes of the past should not be repeated in the same way. Some countries that failed to make active attempts to analyse and come to terms with their past after the Nazi era, and that desperately seek to maintain the narrative of their alleged neutrality, are sending out the wrong signal.”

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