2013 DAYS OF REMEMBRANCE THEME
Never Again: Heeding the Warning Signs
Seventy-five years ago, momentous changes were occurring in Central Europe. Few understood the historic significance of the times, and fewer still saw these events as precursors to what would become one of humanity’s darkest hours. By 1938 the Nazis had been in power for five years, during which they systematically removed Jews from public life in Germany, stripping them of their rights as citizens and severely limiting their employment opportunities. In that pivotal year, the year before Germany invaded Poland and ignited World War II, the treatment of Jews took a dramatic turn for the worse. With the German Reich’s annexation of Austria in March and its incorporation of the Czech border areas—which the nations of the world failed to prevent at the Munich conference in September—an additional 200,000 Jews fell under Nazi rule and became targets of intense persecution, humiliation, and violence. Many were desperate to flee, but no country would take them. Responding to mounting pressure to resolve the worsening refugee crisis, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed an international conference at Evian-les-Bains, France, in July 1938. The nations invited were reassured that “no country will be expected . . . to receive a greater number of immigrants than is permitted by existing legislation.” As a result, of the 32 nations represented, only one—the Dominican Republic—agreed to accept a large number of additional refugees. Then on November 9–10, 1938, came Kristallnacht, a wave of violence unleashed by the Nazis that resulted in the death of at least 91 Jews, the destruction of hundreds of synagogues and many more Jewish-owned businesses, and the arrest of some 30,000 Jewish men, most of whom were transferred from local prisons to the Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. The Jews of Central Europe struggled to maintain their communities and their dignity, but the impact of...
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