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Finneran: An Ancient Hatred

Friday, November 09, 2018


Tom Finneran

It happened on this date, eighty years ago. November 9th, 1938.

Kristallnacht, also known as the “night of broken glass”.

As a prelude to what followed over the next seven years, Kristallnacht would be the equivalent of Pearl Harbor for the Jews of Europe. It was Hitler’s declaration of hatred for the Jewish people of Germany and the Continent.

The depths of Hitler’s depravity cannot be gauged by ordinary human beings. His was a seething evil criminality, utterly corrosive to the morality of the German people.

The events of the nights of November 9th and 10th, 1938 are well-known to historians of World War II. Hitler and his henchman Joseph Goebbels gave the nod and roving gangs of Nazi thugs practiced their hideous trade. Their trade was murder, robbery, arson, and the violent wanton destruction of any property owned by Jews. It was a night of terror, violence, and much-broken glass.

A hundred or more Jews were killed that night, soon to be followed by the roundup of thirty thousand Jews sent to Germany’s concentration camps. That of course was only the beginning...................

Jewish shops were broken into, pillaged and plundered. Jewish homes and schools were set ablaze. Even the most sacred settings were engulfed in flames—synagogues, hospitals, cemeteries.

The noose tightened around the necks of German Jews, many of whom were prepared to leave every possession behind and to emigrate elsewhere. Not surprisingly, America was seen as a refuge, a safe place, far away from the hideous blood-soaked Nazi regime. Distressingly, President Franklin Roosevelt did not cover himself in glory when confronted with the surge of desperate frightened people seeking to emigrate and to live their lives in peace. Anti-Semitism was not uncommon in 20th century America and Roosevelt proved highly resistant to pleas to increase the permissible flow of those terrified would-be emigrants living in despair under the whip of the Third Reich. It was not Roosevelt’s or America’s finest hour.

Fast-forward to last week’s massacre at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. The ancient hatred broke the surface once again, this time lodged in the mind of a different but similarly awful man. On Saturday, October 27th, Shabbat services were underway at the Tree of Life synagogue. Then evil entered that holy place. Eleven Jewish worshippers were murdered on the spot. Six other worshippers were wounded.

Let us not delude ourselves with euphemisms. The murderer was not merely “troubled” or “lonely” or “forgotten”. Such is the language of shrinks. We do not need therapeutic language. We do not need empathetic language. We need truthful language. We need hard language. The murderer is evil incarnate, a horror to humanity, a vile and despicable insult to all that is good and decent in the world.

That such gross criminality was visited upon prayerful peaceful Jewish worshippers is an abomination of the laws of God. That such gross criminality occurred in an American synagogue, or in any synagogue, is painful to every person of every faith. How sad it is that this ancient hatred endures. Eighty years since Kristallnacht. Eighty centuries of anti-Semitism. For shame.

Deliver us from evil. Amen.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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