jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2011

Kristallnacht: Anniversary stirs 'night of broken glass' memories

It was on last night, 73 years ago, that Nazis staged the first government-sanctioned attacks on Jewish people in Germany.

Rioters destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized 7,500 businesses and killed at least 91 people during the Nov. 9-10 riots that, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "sparked the Holocaust."

But Memphian Jack Cohen, a Holocaust survivor who was 6 years old at the time, wouldn't feel the heat from Kristallnacht, known as the "night of broken glass," for another five years.

It wasn't until 1943 that his family, who relocated to Memphis 55 years ago, was forced into hiding following the German invasion of Greece, his home country. Yet the far-reaching implications of this historic day bring Cohen to the synagogue every year, said his daughter, Sarah Beth.

"You cannot hold a grudge for the rest of your life," Cohen always tells his audience when he speaks of his experience as an adolescent in exile. "On the other hand, you cannot forget."

The Hillel group at the University of Memphis observed the anniversary of Kristallnacht earlier this week, rededicating their memorial garden Sunday night in a candlelight ceremony.

Members from the local chapter of Zeta Beta Tau, a Jewish-affiliated fraternity, worked to revamp the butterfly garden outside of the Morris S. Fogelman Jewish Student Center at Hillel of Memphis, doubling its size and placing a new focal point in the center.

The new focus, once a student-made butterfly mosaic, is now one of the 100 painted fiberglass Tigers that pepper the campus. Hillel's tiger is aubergine with yellow butterflies. The piece wasn't created with the Hillel students or garden in mind, but artist Lizi Beard-Ward, who attended Sunday's ceremony, said her artwork had found a fitting home.

"This is great place for her to land," said Beard-Ward, who painted eight tigers in all. "With this one, I wanted to do something that showed the strength of the tiger, as well as her gentler side -- something that showed her spirit."

Hillel president Zachary Roberts gave the tiger her Hebrew name, "Nimorah Hashamorah," meaning guardian tiger.

Roberts said he felt it was important that Hillel recognize the anniversary of Kristallnacht because "it's not something we think of often."

The lesson Cohen hopes to drive home when he talks about the Holocaust, he says, is one of acceptance.

"You hear a lot about 'tolerance,' but just tolerating one another isn't enough," he said. "You need to learn acceptance."

Because Jews in Greece in the 1940s were still considered "Greek" no matter their religion, members of the Greek Orthodox church helped many of their fellow countrymen, including Cohen's family, survive.

"Without that acceptance," Sarah Beth said plainly, "I wouldn't have a daddy."

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