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Kristallnacht: Lights left on to mark 80th anniversary

An image of a candle burning in remembrance of those who lost their lives in Kristallnacht Image copyright Thomas Lundmark

Synagogues and homes across the world will “leave a light on” from Friday to Saturday night to mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Kristallnacht is one of the major turning points in European Jewish history.

Between 9 and 10 November 1938, more than 1,400 synagogues and prayer rooms, thousands of Jewish-owned homes, hospitals, shops and cemeteries were damaged or destroyed across Nazi Germany and Austria.

At least 91 Jewish people were killed and an estimated 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.

This year the anniversary falls on the Sabbath, a Jewish holy day on which practising Jews observe a day of rest. This involves customs and laws which include not using electricity.

But to commemorate Kristallnacht, also known as Night of the Broken Glass, Jewish people are being encouraged to keep a light burning all night.

Eli Ballon is the Administrator and Beadle of the New West End Synagogue (NWES) in London.

“At the NWES, we will be leaving the Friday evening prayer-room lights and memorial tree lights on,” he explained.

“We are also asking congregants to leave a light on overnight on Friday night in their homes to similarly remember this tragedy.

“May the only shattered glass we hear from this point forwards be the sound of glass breaking underfoot by grooms at their Jewish weddings.”

Image copyright Ari Gottesmann

Thomas Lundmark from Skelleftea in Sweden will be lighting a memorial candle. He said: “I am doing it as a way to give my love and respect in remembrance to all the victims and their families of Kristallnacht.”

Lily Smythe is from London and she is leaving a light on to remember those who didn’t have a chance to do so in freedom and security.

“I’m doing this in memory of the Jewish lives lost, and in honour of the spirit of strength and courage which ensures that my people will never be defeated.”

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Image copyright Joachim Yakov Scheinemann

Dr Phyllis Chesler is an author and academic from New York. She explained why she would be leaving a light on:

“Jews are commanded to answer evil with good, bring light and enlightenment where there is darkness and shine a light on evil-doing and to seek justice.”

Joachim Yakov Scheinemann is from Cologne in Germany and is also lighting a memorial candle. But in Germany, the official term for the night is “Pogromnacht” or “Reichspogromnacht”.

“Kristallnacht is a belittlement of what happened,” he explained.

“It is also referred to as ‘Reichspogromnacht’ to mark the nationwide pogroms and loss of life.”

For many, the events of Kristallnacht are regarded as being the first step in the run-up to the horrors of the Holocaust.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that one-point-one million people died at Auschwitz alone, including nearly one million Jews.

The camp is thought to have had the highest number of deaths of all the concentration camps in Europe.

Between 1933 and 1945, six million Jews had been killed under Nazi Germany rule.


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