Skip to main content

Recalling Kristallnacht: When will our rulers learn India is about diversity, harmony?

A ruined sinagogue in Munich after Kristallnacht 
By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
It is exactly eighty years since that infamous night of November 9-10, 1938. The world will never ever forget that night known as the ‘Reichspogromnacht’ or by a seemingly more pleasant sounding ‘Kristallnacht’ (crystal night), which ironically refers to the litter of broken glass strewn on the streets after the pogrom. The Nazis and their henchmen were on the onslaught as they attacked Jews and destroyed their property in a night of bloody violence and terror, across Germany and Austria.
Thousands were affected, several killed; according to some estimates more than one thousand Synagogues and an additional 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed. At least thirty thousand Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. The violence on the Jews continued unabated the next day, and the following weeks and for several years after that. It was a pogrom, the start of a genocide. The sheer hate, brutality and inhumanity that unfolded over the period has been recorded for posterity.
Etched in the hearts and minds of all men and women at the end of the Second World War, were those immortal words, “Never Again”. It seemed that the world had learnt a lesson particularly with the promulgation of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in 1948. Ground realities point to something very different: human nature seems to continue to be feeble and fickle.
Eighty years down the road, it seems that we have neither the courage nor the capacity to learn from history; that we will continue dishing out flimsy justifications and incredible reasons to legitimatize hate, violence, divisiveness and war.
When will we ever learn that anti-Semitism has no place in this world? The lone gunman that killed eleven members of the ‘Tree of Life’ Synagogue in the United States recently is but an example of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in several parts of the western world today. This needs to be addressed and countered as soon as possible.
When will the Israelis ever learn that Palestinians have a right to their homeland? Despite the decisions of the United Nations and the outcry by most thinking nations of the world, the Palestinians continue to be at the receiving end of inhuman treatment and hostility from the Israeli regime.
When will the Saudis ever learn that they have no right to continue to destabilize the Middle East? Their intervention in Yemen has resulted in widespread bombing of civilian areas, the deaths of several thousands and a terrible famine all over. The world is aware of the prime movers behind the ISIS- but sadly, everyone else is called out except the Saudis.
When will the US administration ever learn that democracy is about equals? That the core values and vision of any great country are justice, liberty equality and fraternity. That the dignity of the human person is sacrosanct. That agendas and speeches of hate and divisiveness are bound to have negative effects everywhere.
When will the Indian rulers ever learn that India is about diversity and harmony? That the essence of a great country is the constant pursuit of truth and non-violence. That the denigration of the minorities; the instutionalisation of violence, the partisanship in ‘name-changing’, crony capitalism are guaranteed signposts for the destruction of the country.
When will the right wing ever learn that inclusiveness is at the heart of people’s development? Be it in the Philippines and Austria, in Brazil and Congo, in Myanmar and in Italy – the ‘official’ xenophobia is bound to have repercussions. A great nation is about building bridges to reach out to one another and not about constructing walls to keep out others.
When will the military industrial complex ever learn that they are responsible for so much suffering all over? The guns lobby, the other producers of weapons, the nuclear club are all having a heyday profiteering from fomenting violence in so many different parts of the world. They have no qualms of conscience when innocent, ordinary citizens have to flee their homes because of violence.
The tragedy is that there are these and too many other ominous signs all over the world today. The ‘Kristallnacht’ of 1938 was not a spontaneous event. There were conditions created: hate speeches given, lies and myths propagated a fear about the ‘other’ slowly but surely entrenched in the majority community. Finally, the demon unleashed itself to an unimaginable level. An objective analysis of the politics of today provides one with the grim reality of very similar indicators.
Sometime in the early sixties Bob Dylan gave us that haunting song, which several folksingers and anti-war protesters like Joan Baez made famous:
Yes, 'n' how many times a man must look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

Yes, the answer is blowing in the wind – but do we have the courage to learn from history and help make our world a better place for all?
---
*Indian human rights activist. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

RSS wanted Constitution 'replaced' by Manusmriti which abused Dalits, women

By Shamsul Islam* The Constituent Assembly of India finalized the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949 which is celebrated as the Constitution Day This Constitution promised new born Indian Republic a polity based on democracy, justice, egalitarianism and rule of law. However, RSS was greatly annoyed. Four days after the historic event of approval of it, the RSS English “Organiser” in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:

Nuclear energy 'can't solve' global warming, will 'strain' financial, natural resource

Counterview Desk  Taking strong exception to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who has favoured nuclear energy as a solution to global warning, well-known power and policy analyst Shankar Sharma has said that the IAEA chief's “unsubstantiated advocacy” of nuclear power is associated with “diversion of considerable amounts of scarce resources, both financial as well as natural, of many developing countries, such as India.”

Covid taught us: Exams are cruel process of 'eliminating' those seeking education

By Sandeep Pandey, Seema Muniz, Gopal Krishna Verma* Some people are disheartened with the disruption in children’s education due to the menace of Covid and the successive lockdowns. While a number of children are getting used to attending online classes, their counterparts from the weaker socio-economic backgrounds continue to struggle either because of unfamiliarity with technology or because of having to share a single device with their siblings and/or parents. More unfortunate ones have been completely pushed out of the system which has resulted in the virtual drop in the rate of enrolment.

Book on Bhil rebels offers other side of history, neglected by 'nationalist' historians

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  One of the major accusations against Indian historians is that of neglecting and ignoring the role of the marginalised in the freedom struggle. Most of the time, we are ‘informed’ that there were some ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ of the freedom movement, all of them belonging to the same stock of caste as well as ‘power’ positions as their opponents.

Mysterious death of Kishenji 'triggered' series of splits in Maoist camp in India

By Harsh Thakor* On November 24 fell the 10th death anniversary of Kishenji, a prominent Maoist leader, he was also a poet, a scientist, and a soldier. Since his school days he dreamt of planting the seed to create new man. Born in 1954 in Peddapally town (in Karimnagar district, north Telangana), Kishenji was raised by his father Venkataiah (a “freedom fighter”, he called him) and a progressive mother, Madhuramma.

Govt of India responsible for 71% delays in NREGA wage payments, say economists

Counterview Desk  In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than 70 economists have urged the Government of India to release “adequate funds” for implementing the rural jobs guarantee scheme under the MGNREGA immediately, pointing out that the pandemic continues to adversely affect the living condition of working families.

Learning to bridge 'huge chasm' between highly educated, illiterate, badly literate

By Shrey Ostwal, Sandeep Pandey*  The pivotal point of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s journey to become Mahatma Gandhi began when his “political guru” – Gopal Krishna Gokhale – advised young Mohandas to travel around India. This rigorous journey was essential for Mohandas to understand his country and countrypersons better if he were to fight the inhumane and unempathetic British regime which had been looting India of its glory for about two centuries then.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Dalits 'celebrate' Constitutional Power Era in 12,500 villages of 16 districts on Nov 26

By Pradip More*  It is a fact that the majority of the people do not have much knowledge about the law, and especially the Constitution. Yet, today's younger generation is becoming increasingly aware of its rights. One wished it would have been good if it was taught about the Constitution well in the schools.

Arrest of top J&K civil society leader shows contempt for international law: PUCL

Counterview Desk  Commenting on the arrest of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, India’s top human rights advocacy group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has said that the Government of India action is “one more attempt ... to silence peaceful, non-violent dissenters”, adding, it suggests how “a brutalizing state machinery" has been acting.