Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I went to a very good high school. People moved to my town because of the schools.  In 11th and 12th grade I took American history and did very well. In 10th grade I took World History and did well.  In college I took a course in the spring semester of my freshman year called, American History from 1865 to the present.  I was still a diligent student at the time. As a sophomore I took World History at a time when I had begun to become well, sophomoric, for a spell. So the intensity of my studying was not as great as it had been in that course.

Still, I took 2 1/2 years of American history, and 1 1/2 years of World History.

And it wasn't until I was a graduate student when-while reading a novel --that I came across a reference to Kristallnacht.  I was at home at the time visiting my parents.  Since the book was a novel, I was not sure if the event actually had occurred or if it was the creation of the author. So, I asked my folks if they had ever heard of Kristallnacht. They had, of course.

But how had I not?

Truly, I had been--in high school at least-- an industrious history student. There is a story there about how I became so, but that is for another time.  There were statewide exams in New York for American and World History and I think I scored above a 95 in each.

And yet I had never heard of Kristallnacht until I happened across a reference in a novel.

Yesterday I was thumbing through facebook when I saw that someone had posted a reference to the anniversary of the event.    I decided to post a photo as my own comment on the importance of remembering what occurred.  So I typed in Kristallnacht in google and looked at many photos.

The one I have included here was the most unnerving.  All the pictures depicted the shattered glass, but this one included something else.

Take a good look at the photo.  What is most troublesome about it to me is not the shattered glass of the storefront, but the two smiling pedestrians, enjoying the horror.

They are likely dead. They look to be about 40 in the photo taken about 80 years ago.  But what about their legacy. Did they have children? Did they teach their children that somehow the holocaust--or this precursor to it--made sense? What about their children's children? And theirs? How do they feel when they see these smiling faces?  How could there be smiling faces after Kristallnacht?

One person who commented on the photo wrote something along the following lines.  Would there be smiling citizens in the US if some of the xenophobic and superficially patriotic politicians get their way?

I think the answer is yes.  Not in the 1930s. Not in the 1950s in Little Rock.  In 2015. In red and blue states.  A good number of people smiling, over something like this.

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