Kristallnacht, Covid-19 and Israel: the ancient hatred continues — Vivienne Myburgh

Pedestrians glance at the broken windows of a Jewish owned shop in Berlin after the attacks of Kristallnacht in November 1938 (PHOTO: Universal History Archive/Getty Images/ abc news)

Kristallnacht was commemorated last week from the evening of November 9 to the evening of November 10.

Early in November 1938 a young Jewish man walked into the German Embassy in Paris and shot the third secretary, Ernst Vom Rath, after he had heard that his family had been expelled from their home in Germany and deported to Poland along with thousands of other Jews.

Hitler used the murder as a pretext and ordered the SS and SA to initiate a nation-wide pogrom against the Jews on the nights of November 9 and 10.

Synagogues were burnt down, Jewish shops looted and many Jews were beaten up and also murdered. It led directly to around 30 000 Jewish men between the ages of 18 and 80 being sent to concentration camps for a period, where many of them died. 

The fact is that the groundwork had been laid for this event since 1933 when the Nazis came into power and started passing increasingly ferocious measures against the Jews.

The media played their part in spreading ongoing lies and libels against the Jews, leading to antisemitic demonstrations and campaigning for the boycotting of Jewish shops. Various laws were passed, excluding Jews from certain public offices and professions.   

Some of the Jewish people saw the ominous signs and about a quarter fled Germany but that was not enough for the Nazis. Around 1937 the German government concluded it would need to change tactics and the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, stated as much, in a circular he sent out in January 1939: “It is not by chance that 1938, the year of our destiny saw the realisation of our plan for Greater Germany as well as a major step towards the solution of the Jewish problem… (referring to the “successful” Kristalnacht event). 

Martin Luther

It is extremely sad to take note of the part played potentially in the event by the renowned German theologian, Martin Luther, who had written a book called The Jews and their Lies  in 1523 where he expressed antagonistic views  towards Jews and called for the burning of their synagogues and for their death.

How ironic that Kristallnacht took place on Luther’s birthday, November 10. Jewish bishops were heard to remark about that coincidence and that he would have been proud to have witnessed it.

The church’s history in perpetuating antisemitism throughout the ages has surely been a source of much of the mistrust of the Jews towards the church, and continues sadly, even today with teachings such as Replacement Theology and rampant anti-Zionism promoted in certain Christian circles.      

The Ribbentrop document went on to state that “The spread of Jewish influence and its corruption of our political, economic and cultural life has perhaps done more to undermine the German people’s will to prevail than all the hostility shown us by the Allied powers since the Great War. This disease in the body of our people had first to be eradicated before the Great German Reich could assemble its forces in 1938 to overcome the will of the world.”

The apathy of the average German citizen and of the western powers, including Britain and the USA during the “test case” of Kristallnacht empowered the Reich to accelerate their evil plans which led directly to the murder of close to 4.5 million Jewish men and women and around 1.5 million Jewish children!

Today, more than a generation later, many of the new generation are not aware of the atrocities that took place in Europe, just over 80 years ago. The rise in antisemitism across many nations does not bode well for our Jewish family and many are again choosing to make their way to their ancient homeland, just as the prophets said they would!

. New York councilmember Karen Kolsowitz calls on meia to resist antismeitic tropes and coverage of Covid-19 rates that blame Jewish New Yorkers (PHOTO:

The Jews are again being targeted as a scapegoat for the world’s woes and even the Covid-19 pandemic has been used as a pretext to attack Jewish people as they have been blamed for it too! 

It is reminiscent of the Middle Ages, when Jews were blamed for spreading the Black Death plague.

Such lies are highlighted in a summary of a report by several groups tracking antisemitism, including the Brussels-based European Jewish Congress (EJC) and America’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL): “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said in April.

“The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the medieval ‘blood libels’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies.”

Virus-related conspiracy theories, including antisemitic tropes, have proliferated online. There has been a surge in claims on social media that the Jews and/or Israel manufactured or spread the coronavirus to advance their global control,” the ADL wrote in late April, detailing antisemitic social media messages blaming Jews for the pandemic.

Jews have always been the scapegoat, even before Covid-19
Accounts of desecrated Jewish graveyards, swastika graffiti and a growing number of social media postings linking Jews to the spread of the disease remind us why antisemitism is often described as the world’s oldest hatred.

“I’m not sure we can ever wipe it out,” Deborah Lipstadt, author of several books on antisemitism, told a panel discussion at Princeton earlier this year.

Among the false allegations recorded by researchers: That Jews are spreading the virus while secretly working on vaccines in the expectation they will profit from their sales. Kantor views such malignant ideas in the context of centuries of blaming Jews when things go wrong.

Jews have been made scapegoats in country after country. Between 250 AD and 1948, Jews were expelled from more than 80 European countries, according to Rutgers University professor Michael Curtis. The countries included England, France, Spain, Portugal and Austria, as well as several German states.

Antisemitic ideas survived soul-searching, education campaigns and, in the case of Germany and Austria, legislation that bans the display of Nazi images, Nazi songs and Nazi customs such as the stiff-armed salute, obligatory under Hitler. Denying that the Holocaust happened is a crime subject to jail.

 Yet, antisemitic voices are growing louder in the anonymity of the internet.

In April, hackers broke into a video conference organised by the Israeli embassy in Berlin to commemorate victims of Nazism. The conference was interrupted by pictures of Hitler and Nazi-era propaganda slogans. According to a study by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Germany ranks third on the list of countries where online anti-semites are most active, after the United States and France.

“This worries me deeply,” commented Felix Klein, Germany’s Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism. His lengthy title describes a federal job created in 2018 to coordinate local state measures to ensure the country’s 200 000 Jews live in safety.

In the United States, home to more Jews than Israel, already strict security around synagogues was tightened after a gunman screaming “all Jews must die” killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018. It was the deadliest attack on Jewish Americans in the country’s history.

‘The only disease that has not found its cure is antisemitism’
These are small numbers, which adds to a question for which there is no single, convincing answer despite hundreds of books and studies of persecution and conspiracy theories through almost 4 000 years of Jewish history: Why the Jews?

In the case of the Black Death (bubonic plague) pandemic, the deadliest in human history with up to 200 million killed, some historians ascribe the massacre of Jews in many European cities to a rumour circulating in 1348 that Jews were hatching a conspiracy to kill Christians by poisoning public wells.

By the end of 1349, hundreds of Jewish communities had been annihilated, with thousands killed in the cities of Mainz, Frankfurt and Cologne alone. The plague abated, but antisemitic conspiracy theories did not. Their endurance is something of a mystery. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize winner and survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, described antisemitism as an “irrational disease.”

“The unsolvable puzzle,” he wrote, “is that the world has changed in the last 2 000 years and only antisemitism has remained. The only disease that has not found its cure is antisemitism.”

Today… Israel is a nation, standing strong among the nations. The hatred that was focussed largely on the individual before has now conveniently found another focus…the demonisation of the State of Israel!   

During the World Health Organization’s meeting on November 12, on the global response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, 30 delegations took the opportunity to blame Israel for “allegedly violating the health rights of Palestinians and Syrians in the Golan Heights”. Included in those delegations were Venezuela, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Malaysia and Lebanon.

The WHO session concluded with a vote of 78 to 14, with 32 abstentions, to adopt a resolution, co-sponsored by Syria, Cuba, Turkey, Qatar and the Palestinian delegation, requiring the WHO to hold the same debate at next year’s assembly, and to prepare another report on the “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.” 

The above resolutions are ironic in the extreme as Israel does not discriminate between various people groups where healthcare is concerned. A case in point is Saeb Erekat, longstanding PLO negotiator, whose hatred and lies regarding Israel are legendary, who was treated in an Israeli hospital for Covid19 recently.

The Jewish and Arab doctors at the Hadassah University hospital did everything to save his life and gave him their best available treatment. He unfortunately passed away last week, 10th November. 

Israel also had a special unit from the IDF whose purpose was to pick up injured people from the Syrian conflict. More than 5 000 injured Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals since 2013.       

Surely it is God alone who has the last word…
He, who declares the end form the beginning states:
But you, Israel, are My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen, 
The descendants of Abraham My friend.
You whom I took from the ends of the earth,
And called from its farthest regions,
And said to you,
You are My servant.
I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Behold, all those who were incensed against you
Shall be ashamed and disgraced;
They shall be as nothing, 
And those who strive with you shall perish.
You shall seek them and not find them-
Those who contended with you.
Those who war against you, shall be as nothing,
as a non-existent thing.
For I, The Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, Fear not, I will help you.”

— Isaiah 41:4-13

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