Written by Maria Celander
Manifestations in remembrance of the Nazi pogrom of 1938 have become a playground for gays, lesbians, Muslims and leftists
This weekend, the world remembers the infamous Nazi pogrom of Kristallnacht. In Malmö and Helsingborg the manifestations take place – without Jews.
“We haven’t been asked to participate this year. In previous years we’ve elected not to take part, because we felt the event has become too politically biased,” says Fredrik Sieradzki, spokesperson for the Jewish Congregation in Malmö.
The manifestation to be held at Malmö’s Gustav Adolfs square on November 9th is a joint effort arranged by, among others, the Social Democratic Party, the Swedish Left Party, the Iranian-Swedish society, RFSL (an organization for homo-, bisexual and transgender people) and various local union chapters. In previous years, the Jewish Congregation has been invited to participate, but declined on the grounds of keeping their political independence. And this year, they weren’t even asked.
“We didn’t feel there was any point in asking, since we know their attitude. It’s a pity things turned out this way. Sure, the organizers are politically left-wing, but this isn’t an election rally. The purpose isn’t to advertise any particular political opinions, but to take a stand for the equal worth of all humans,” says Susanne Lund at ABF (Workers’ Education Union) in Malmö, one of the organizers.
The Jewish Congregation of Northwestern Skåne received an invitation to participate in a meeting in Helsingborg to be held on November 11th. The organizers, the municipal red and green parties, wanted Jewish, Muslim and non-denominational representatives at the meeting. Congregation president Jussi Tyger didn’t mince words in his e-mail reply:
”Thank you for the invitation. During the twenty years I’ve been an active member of the Jewish Congregation of Northwestern Skåne, we have never, as far as I can recall, enjoyed any positive feedback or support from you and your group. On the contrary.
“A constant, radical leftist denunciation of the State of Israel, and an equally constant pro-Palestine viewpoint can hardly be regarded as anything other than an insult to the Jewish people and the whole Jewish establishment. Furthermore, I fail to see how the Muslims could bring anything to the table at a meeting themed Kristallnacht, other than serving the interests of the leftists.”
“I was completely taken aback, so my tone may have come out a little more brusque than intended,” says Jussi Tyger to Dispatch International.
“I’ve got nothing against cross cultural events, but not in this context. I see Kristallnacht as a purely Jewish matter and I felt unsure of their intentions. This feels like the wrong forum for this kind of thing, and arouses suspicions that there are people out there trying to take advantage of Kristallnacht to meet their own propagandizing ends.”
The Jewish Congregations of Malmö and Northwestern Skåne will, instead of participating in the larger manifestations, hold their own low-key remembrance gatherings together. Susanne Lund doesn’t rule out the possibility that attempts will be made in the future to convince them to join in.
“It does feel a bit strange that they’re not part of the event, so we might have to ponder that,” she says.
The murder of the Third Secretary at the German legation in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, on November 7th 1938, was the excuse the Nazi regime needed to stage a massive pogrom in Germany and Austria. The young Jew Herschel Grynszpan 17, shot vom Rath in an act of despair, after Grynszpan’s family had been deported. This gave the Nazis the chance to launch a carefully planned attack on the Jews.
During the night between November 9th and 10th, thousands of synagogues, Jewish shops and residences were burned and destroyed. Roughly 400 people were murdered, many more were severely beaten, and some 30,000 men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Afterwards, the Jews were blamed for the destruction, ordered to pay damages around a billion Deutsch Marks, and forced to clean up the devastated streets. The glittering glass covering the streets gave the pogrom its name – Kristallnacht, The Crystal Night.