Seventy-five years ago tonight, hordes of Berliners went out into the night to pillage and burn homes, businesses, hospitals and houses of worship of the Jewish community of Berlin. Crystal Night, as the night of the 9th to the 10th of November of 1938 came to be known, probably was the night in which the holocaust began.
Theses are photos of Stolpersteine, stumbing blocks, planted directly in front of my door. These bronze cobblestones are the memorials to victims of the holocaust that lived in this house. I don’t exactly know who occupied the space between this walls among which I now live but these are the people that left from my front door to their deaths.
Rebbeca and Ernestine Grün were deported from this place to Riga where they were murdered. Paula Altman was deported to Chelmno and murdered. Isidor and Frieda Lehman were taken to Warsaw and killed in the ghetto. Therese Sack was deported in 1943 to Auschwitz and murdered.
These men and women who were marched to their deaths from this very place, lived among the very walls that today are my
home and looked out of these very windows at a city almost identical to this one that I so dearly love but which–I well know–would have then devoured me just as it devoured them.
But in some sense, that city no longer exists. But never to be that city again cannot but be an arduous task which requires permanent thought and permanent reckoning. It is these walls and these stones which should be a stumbling block to political cynicism. From these walls, the echoes of these people’s silence continue to bounce and should continue to assail our sense of justice. But, at the same time, we ought not be allowed to usurp their suffering and the suffering of others to justify our political proclivities. If so, our own past to which they belong ought not to allow us to walk away with a clear conscience.
Rather, the best we can take from those hours of brutality which from the distance of time still inhabit these walls is that today we are better than we were then and for that reason we are not allowed to forget the price that others paid for us to become a more just society.