Day marked the start of horror
By Jonathan Yazer
The day signifying the commencement of the most destructive genocidal event in history was remembered yesterday in the University Community Centre atrium.
Jack Brzezinski of the Jewish Students' Union, the organization responsible for the annual ceremony, began the proceedings by introducing the audience to the historical context of Kristallnacht.
Brzezinski said the assassination of a German politician by a Jewish citizen was used as a pretext. "Gangs of youth [burned down] 101 synagogues and [destroyed] 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses. Ninety-one people died and 64,000 people were deported on this day. These were the beginnings of the Holocaust."
Alain Goldschlagger, professor of French at Western and a Holocaust expert, also spoke to the audience on the significance of remembering Kristallnacht.
"A commemoration has several functions. One is to remember, but another is to understand - to see what happened not only as an event, but as a process," Goldschlagger said. "Kristallnacht was only one step in the process that led to Auschwitz."
Goldschlagger cited evidence including attacks on both synagogues and rabbis in France as proof of a rising tide of global anti-Semitism. "Are we today in the same kind of process when Jews have to be concerned for their safety?"
Davita Guslits, a third-generation Holocaust survivor and Grade 8 student, described the escape of her grandmother from the clutches of a death squad. "The Gestapo found her hiding spot and forced her and others to march onto trains destined for Treblinka," she said. Guslits explained that her grandmother was fortunate to be one of the few not shot dead by soldiers when she leapt from the moving train.
The final speaker, JSU president Gary Diamond, extended a message of hope to the audience. "Seldom do we consider the truly heroic acts of the victims who were able to maintain their dignity, values and beliefs."
The event concluded with a minute of silence. Rustling could be heard from the area surrounding the atrium, though the entire UCC atrium fell quiet when a pane of glass was smashed to symbolize the destruction of Kristallnacht.