B’nai B’rith remembers Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which took place in Germany and Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. During that horrendous time, at least 91 Jews were killed and innumerable synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers and homes were attacked, looted, and destroyed. B’nai B’rith Paraguay, Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Uruguay held remembrance events throughout November.
B’nai B’rith Paraguay hosted President Federico Franco and Foreign Minister José Félix Fernández Estigarribia, among 500 others who turned out for the commemoration on Nov. 6. The keynote speaker was Emilio Cardenas, a former Argentinean ambassador to the United Nations and a prestigious professor of international law. Cardenas warned about the dangers and threats of anti-Semitism in Latin America and emphasized that when liberties are cut and freedom of expression is limited, democracy is in serious danger. He reminded the attendees that they must always remember what may happen when democracy vanishes and authoritarianism prevails. Holocaust survivors and their families were invited to light the candles of the B’nai B’rith menorah.
B’nai B’rith Chile commemorated Kristallnacht on Nov. 9 at the Jewish Hebrew Institute. The students of the institute, mainly middle schoolers, along with students from six other schools attended the ceremony. German Ambassador to Chile Hans Blomeyer spoke to the students about the importance of memory, the value of Germany’s friendship with Israel and its commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. David Dadon, the Israeli ambassador to Chile, also spoke and referred to the plight of the Jews during Nazi rule to current situations in which minorities have their rights violated without receiving attention from a democratic society. Survivor Enrique Schocken who lived in Berlin during the Night of Broken Glass, recalled that night and the subsequent events.
The B’nai B’rith lodge in Cuba held a ceremony on Nov. 10, inviting diplomats and leaders of the Jewish community to remember that fateful evening. Samuel Zagovalov, lodge president, spoke as did lodge member Fidel Babani, who gave a brief overview of the events of that evening. Lodge member Alejandro Herrera also recounted the Night of Broken Glass.
On Nov. 12 hundreds of people attended B’nai B’rith Argentina’s commemoration at the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio attended the event as did high-level representatives of the Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. Rabbi Alejandro Avruj from the conservative synagogue Congregation Emanu-El joined the ceremonies, lighting the menorah with Bergoglio and presenting him with a siddur.
B’nai B’rith Venezuela commemorated Kristallnacht on Nov. 12 in conjunction with Venezuelan Jewish groups: Sobrevivientes del Holocausto Yad VaShem, el Espacio Anna Frank and la Confederación de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela. The event was attended by various diplomats, community leaders and the general public. The keynote speaker of the night was Daniel Rafecas, a federal judge in Argentina. The event was very successful considering the complicated circumstances Venezuelan Jews live under.
On Nov. 15 B’nai B’rith Costa Rica organized a commemorative event for Kristallnacht at the main synagogue in San Jose with a congregation of about 600 people. Many of those who attended were non-Jews from various governmental offices, diplomatic service, civil institutions, friends of Israel and of the local Jewish community. Following tradition, each year the commemoration is dedicated to a different subject. This year the main subjects were the children during the Shoa. Real cases and emblematic stories were developed to pay tribute to the 1.5 million children murdered by the Nazis. The two keynote speakers at the event were Elizabeth Odio, former vice president of Costa Rica and former judge and vice president of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and Alejandro Toledo, former president of Peru.
Five hundred people packed the B’nai B’rith Hall in Montevideo, Uruguay for the Nov. 20 commemoration of Kristallnacht. Vice President of Uruguay Danilo Astori and three former presidents all attended, as did Foreign Minister Luis Almagro, congressmen and presidents of many political parties. The event was broadcast on live television and streamed over the Internet. B’nai B’rith District President Rafael Hodara addressed the group, presenting a strong message of remembrance to the horrors of the Holocaust.