As the president of the organizing committee for this year’s Montreal commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, veteran educator Hanna Eliashiv wanted to do something different. Working directly with the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, an outstanding documentary was produced and screened last week for the first time at Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron, located in Côte St. Luc.
film told the story of Kristallnacht from the standpoint of four Montreal
Holocaust survivors who were witnesses: Charlotte Lintzel, Ursula Feist, Leo
Dortort, Willie Glaser, as well as Alexandra Cohen, a young adult who has chosen
to transmit their message to her generation.(Feist, Glazer and Cohen are pictured here).
Charlotte Lintzel was born in Berlin just before the rise of Hitler. Her family had not fled; she survived the war in hiding. Ursula Feist was born in Berlin in 1921. Just after the start of the war, her family sought refuge in Shanghai where they later were interned by the Japanese. Born in 1928 in Graz, Austria, Leo Dortort was just 10 years old when he witnessed the riots taking place in Graz during Kristallnacht. Willie Glaser was born in Furth, Germany. He was only 17 years old when he witnessed the atrocities perpetrated during Kristallnacht in Munich where he was a student. Alexandra Cohen represents the generation of young Jewish adults. She is a human rights activist and an active member of Amnesty International.
The five individuals were in the audience and together lit a memorial candle. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Eliashiv was surrounded by admirers who asked her how fast she can get this film into schools – Jewish and non-Jewish- as the message sent was invaluable. “That is our plan,” Eliashiv promised. “We are working on an educational guide to accompany it and we want that to be finished first.”
“We are the future leaders of our communities,” Alexandra Cohen stated. “Kristallnacht and the Shoah must teach us to be vigilant for acts of hatred and racism. It is our responsibility to listen for warnings like Kristallnacht and to never allow another genocide to happen.”
Dutort noted how Hitler used Kristallnacht to see if the rest of the world would react. It did not.
“Antisemtism,” said Furst, “is rising. We must teach tolerance in schools.”
This year’s commemorative ceremony included a musical program containing pieces presented by the Bialik High School choir and Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch.
Kristallnacht was a pogrom orchestrated by the Nazis on November 9th and 10th 1938. It took place throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, then recently occupied by German troops. It marks the intensification of a regime of terror against Jews by the Third Reich. Kristallnacht owes its name to the shards of shattered glass that lined German streets in the wake of the pogrom - broken glass from the windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence. All these events were greeted with total indifference by the international community.
Joel Lion, the Consul General of Israel, an eloquent speaker, noted that in 1938 the Jews of Europe had nowhere to go. “Palestine was closed,” he said. “No country in the world was ready to open up its doors But today if a stone is thrown in France, Germany, the Ukraine, Canada or the United States, there is a place for the Jewish community – Israel. It is because of the State of Israel that you can live as a proud Jew wherever you want.”
In attendance were a number of other members of the diplomatic corps as well as CSL Mayor Anthony Housefather, Councillors Ruth Kovac, Mitchell Brownstein, Steven Erdelyi, Dida Berku and myself, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg and Councillor Abe Gonshor and St. Laurent Councillor Maurice Cohen, who just marked 30 years in politics (he is pictured here with Berku). Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko, the dynamic spiritual leader of Beth Israel Beth Aaron, gave closing remarks.
Visibly absence were young adults from the community. Where were all of the kids who attend the local Jewish day schools? And why did some very notable Jewish community organizations decide to hold special dinners and raffles on a solemn night like this? It is hard to figure.
While the official locally produced video is not ready for more of a public viewing yet, here is one about Kristallnacht: