July 16, 2024
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Kristallnacht: A Message for Today

The 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht recently passed amid limited coverage, overshadowed by the Israel War. This article draws parallels between the events in 1930s Germany and the present state of Western democracies. Through examining the rise of antisemitism, the role of universities, media influence, and contemporary concerns, it becomes evident that history holds crucial lessons for today.

In the 1920s, Germany’s Jewish community thrived within society. However, Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 marked a turning point. Anti-Jewish policies, fueled by propaganda scapegoating Jews for economic hardships, the World War I defeat, hyperinflation and the Great Depression gained momentum. The 1935 Nuremberg Laws stripped German Jews of citizenship, barring them from marrying non-Jews. Kristallnacht, on November 9-10, 1938, stands as a dark day in Jewish history. More than 100 were murdered, numerous beaten, and widespread destruction of Jewish property occurred. Around 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated, setting the stage for the Holocaust.

A study by Belo Bodo, “The Role of Antisemitism in the Expulsion of non-Aryan Students, 1933-1945,” reveals the complicity of universities in facilitating the Holocaust. German universities played a critical role in promoting antisemitism. Nazi student groups like the National Socialist German Students’ League fueled antisemitic sentiments through book burnings, harassment of Jewish students and pressure on university administrations to comply with Nazi policies.

Jewish academics faced exclusion from academic societies, contributing to their isolation. The Nazis purged Jewish faculty and students through laws like the 1933 Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, leading to the dismissal of Jewish professors from German universities. Curriculum changes and the promotion of Nazi ideology within universities normalized antisemitism.

The German media played a significant role in laying the foundation for the Holocaust by disseminating antisemitic narratives. Propaganda shaped public opinion and contributed to the normalization of discrimination.

Despite Jews in Western democracies integrating successfully into various fields, concerns arose in the 2010s. The “woke generation” criticized Jews, questioning their allegiances and perpetuating unfounded claims linking Jews to economic downturns and conspiracy theories.

In October 2023 a horrifying attack shocked the world, resulting in the massacre of over 1,400 people and the abduction of more than 240. Western countries’ leaders were dismayed, but reactions from the general population were mixed. Large street demonstrations supporting Hamas and animosity towards Israel and Jews occurred worldwide, leading to fear among Jewish individuals who felt the need to conceal their identities.

The situation in universities globally has been worsening for several years. Groups supporting Hamas, such as the Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, played a key role in promoting antisemitic sentiments on campuses. They organized mass demonstrations, harassed Jewish students, and pressured university administrations to delegitimize Israel by:

  1. Exclusion of Jewish organizations from university activities: Jewish organizations like Hillel are being excluded from university activities such as at American University in Washington, Stony Brook University in New York, and the University of Washington in Seattle. Historically, pro-BDS campus groups such as SJP and JVP have also engaged in the heckling and interruption of pro-Israel campus speakers.
  2. Purge of Jewish faculty and students: Pro-Palestinian organizations have forced out Jews who are Zionist from positions in the universities. Examples of this are University of Southern California student government vice president Rose Ritch in 2020 and Tufts University student judiciary member Max Price in 2021.
  3. Curriculum changes: Pro-Palestinian groups sought to control education to shape the ideological views of the younger generation. They forced these changes of history by demanding that the Palestinian narrative of how the Palestinians are the rightful inhabitants of the land of Israel become the standard message to university students. Antisemitic ideas were incorporated into academic curricula and professors were pressured to align their teachings with leftist pro-Palestinian racial ideology.
  4. Student activism: The leftist faculty who were promoting the Palestinian narrative motivated their students to take an active role in degrading Israel and the Jews on campus. This occurred to the point that Jewish students at many campuses (Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, USC, MIT, and others) felt unsafe even going to classes.
  5. Research restrictions: Jewish academics faced restrictions on their research activities in joint research with Israeli institutions. Many government(s) prohibited funding of any joint projects with universities in Yehuda and Shomron.

One of the major questions is from where are these groups getting funding. The answer is that at least some of it is coming from the taxpayer through grants given to the university. Outside funders include the Rockefeller Foundation; WESPAC Foundation, a Westchester, New York-based organization; and Holy Land Foundation (HLF).

In summary, democratic Western universities are actively participating in the institutionalization and promotion of antisemitism through discriminatory policies, purges, curriculum changes, and the promotion of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish ideology among faculty and students. This period marks a dark chapter in the history of Western academia, where intellectual and educational institutions are complicit in the implementation of discriminatory and prejudiced practices.

The leftist media also played a major role in laying the foundation for the surge in antisemitism. The pro-Palestinian organizations recognized that the media played a major role in fostering a hostile environment. They utilized the internet and social media to spread antisemitic narratives, and the leftist press echoed these ideas, further contributing to a toxic atmosphere.

 

Conclusion and Call to Action

The parallels between 1930s Germany and current events in Western democracies raise concerns. The article questions whether the writing is on the wall for Jews in Western societies. The future leaders in American and European universities are of particular concern and the influence of the left on current administrations is questioned.

 

What You Can Do

  1. Write to government representatives urging the termination of funding for antisemitic organizations in universities.
  2. Contact media companies promoting Palestinian narratives, requesting responsible reporting.
  3. Consider aliyah and be prepared with an alternative plan if the situation deteriorates. Israel welcomes you.

Rabbi Paul Bloom and his wife Ettie live in Jerusalem. Paul is a retired IBM executive. He is on the board of directors of the New York /Israel Chamber of Commerce and is the CEO of PDB Futurecom, helping Israeli companies connect with American investors and enterprises.

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