“Do you want history to repeat again?” asked the emotional speaker in the late afternoon New York City chill, a somber ultra-Orthodox man standing behind her.
The crowd responded with a loud and firm: “No!”
“We don’t want history to repeat again,” the speaker agreed.
It is the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the German pogrom that served as the starter pistol for the Nazi horrors that followed. But this, I regret to write, is not what the speaker was talking about today. The young lady was casting the Jews in the role of today’s Nazis, insisting Israel was carrying out a genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. The man behind her was likely a member of Neturei Karta, a tiny breakaway faction of anti-Zionist Jews who cosplay as devout who are more likely to see Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah as their chief rabbi than any genuine Jewish communal leader. In place of a tallit, he wore a keffiyeh around his neck.
Aside from their token Halloween rabbi, it’s unlikely the group even knew it was the anniversary of Kristallnacht. Many of those at this gathering at Manhattan’s Bryant Park walked out of school to be there, so I’ll keep my expectations of their historical awareness realistic. (“This is more important because people are dying. I think we can miss a test,” one youngster told a reporter from NBC.)
The students were a small part of the day’s protests, a global Shut It Down for Palestine day of action, as activists refer to a day of not doing things. Elsewhere in the city protesters surrounded and bloodied a Jewish man with a chair, embracing the spirit of the anniversary. But that’s been true of many days since Oct. 7.
In actual, intentional Kristallnacht commemorations, the organization March of the Living recorded survivor testimony in advance of the anniversary for public release. Unfortunately, reports JTA: “In a sign of how significantly the current climate is affecting survivors, the March of the Living communicated late Wednesday, after some testimonies had already been published, that the survivors did not want to have their full names or pictures published. Many have long been public speakers sharing their stories, but at the current moment, the organization said, they were concerned that exposing themselves would risk their personal security.”
That fact might be just as important as the testimony itself, and bears repeating. Holocaust survivors are afraid to use their full names and pictures in their recorded testimony in November of 2023. It really puts the whining about supposedly “chilling pro-Palestinian speech” in context. A bunch of congressional staffers signed a letter complaining about Congress’s support for Israel—anonymously, because they worried that trying to torpedo their bosses might make their bosses less inclined to keep them on staff and unknowingly fund their little skunkworks morality play. No doubt our Gen Z heroes expect the remaining Holocaust survivors to thank them for their service.
In Beverly Hills, meanwhile, a 99-year-old survivor of Auschwitz had her fears rekindled recently when her home was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti. When she first found out she would be coming to America, she told ABC News, “I was delighted that we are going to America because it can never happen again [there]. Now, I see that it can happen.”
How could a Holocaust survivor underestimate the world-historic courage of Politico’s 30 Under 30?
Anyway, I was not surprised to see one reporter bursting with pride over New York’s courageous youth: “Among the demonstrators were hundreds of New York City public school students who had walked out of their classrooms earlier that day in protest. Together they chanted, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ as they stood atop the library’s iconic lions, proudly waving Palestinian flags.”
Must’ve been one hell of a moment, crowds swelling at public landmarks shouting genocidal slogans on the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht. In a city with more Jews than Tel Aviv.