Remembering Ends, and Beginnings

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, timed loosely to coincide with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Other countries commemorate the Shoah on different days, but most – probably all – commemorations of the Holocaust begin from the end: 6 million dead, genocide, inhumanity.

Things that end, however, need first to begin. The beginning of the Holocaust, at least in its public phase, is generally taken to be Kristallnacht, the night of pogroms in Munich and other German cities, on 10 November 1938. The next day, 11 November 1938, the New York Times reported on the killings, arrests and firebombings, and on orders given to Jews in Munich to leave the city (and, in some cases, the country). But the report that catches my attention came the next day, 12 November 1938, with the headline “Munich Rescinds Jews’ Expulsion“.

The Nazis took two steps towards the abyss, and one small step back, allowing for debate other their intentions and ends. The problem with history is that it’s only written once it’s over; the problem with causation is that until the effects have occurred, there are, in fact, no causes. Kristallnacht became the precursor of the Holocaust only once the Holocaust had happened. Too often, we only realize that the slope is slippery once we find ourselves battered and bloodied at the bottom.

.עוֹשֶֹה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו, הוּא יַעֲשֶֹה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ


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