B’nai B’rith remembers Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which took place in Germany and Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. At least 96 Jews were killed, more than 1,000 synagogues were set on fire, nearly 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, and countless community centers, libraries and homes were attacked, looted and destroyed during the explosion of terror. About 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Throughout November, B’nai B’rith Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Uruguay, Cuba, Chile and Paraguay held remembrance programs marking the anniversary.
For 20 years B’nai B’rith Argentina has organized Kristallnacht commemoration ceremonies in cooperation with the Ecumenical Commission of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and, this year, the Lamroth Hakol community. The B’nai B’rith-sponsored, interreligious ceremony was held at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral with Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli and Rabbi Fabián Skornik presiding over the program. Skornik discussed his participation in the Holocaust event “March for Life” around Europe, visiting many death and concentration camps. The most poignant and saddening sight for him, he told the audience, were the thousands of shoes without children. Poli stated the need to learn to accept pluralism and diversity in society for the sake of truth and justice.
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The moving program was organized by former B’nai B’rith Argentina President and current Director of the Interfaith Dialogue Commission Boris Kalnicki. The Argentina Hebrew Society chorus performed for attendees and candles of the menorah were lit by survivors, as well as Jewish and Catholic children. The event was strongly attended with ambassadors of Israel, Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Austria and the Vatican participating in the ceremony, while Jewish community leaders, Argentine politicians, and members of various congregation and churches filled the crowd.
B’nai B’rith Costa Rica held a Kristallnacht commemoration ceremony at the synagogue of Centro Israelita Sionista, the largest Jewish communal institution in Costa Rica. More than 600 people attended, including members of the legislature, judges, ambassadors from different countries and the Archbishop of San José, José Rafael Quirós. The theme of the program was “The control of the media by dictatorships” with keynote speaker Eduardo Ulibarri, the 20-year director of the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación and the country’s current permanent representative to the United Nations.
In Venezuela, B’nai B’rith held three important events from October into November. The first was an Oct. 30 ceremony honoring the work of Jan Karski, a Polish underground fighter in World War II who reported valuable information to the Allies on the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi death camps. The ceremony was held jointly with the Polish embassy in Caracas. On Nov. 10 a Kristallnacht commemoration was held at the B’nai B’rith building in Caracas with more than 300 people in attendance. The following evening B’nai B’rith hosted a forum on human rights issues both past and present with Argentine judge Daniel Rafecas—an expert on the Shoah and international law—and Universidad Metropolitana (UNIMET) professor Maria Teresa Belandria sitting on the panel.
B’nai B’rith Uruguay hosted Vice President Danilo Astori, former presidents, political leaders, congressmen and diplomats at a Kristallnacht ceremony on Nov. 13 that was broadcast live by seven television stations. The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Archbishop of Montevideo Daniel Sturla.
In Cuba, the Maimonides Lodge held a remembrance ceremony with more than 150 people in attendance. The president of the Hebrew community in Cuba Adela Dworin came to the ceremony, as did many leadership and staff members of other Jewish organizations in Havana. Those present were serenaded by the Shofar Jewish Community Choir and the keynote speaker was B’nai B’rith Cuba President Samuel Zagovalov.
B’nai B’rith Chile organized a ceremony on Nov. 9 at a Lutheran church in Santiago. The event was co-sponsored by the International Council of Christians and Jews.
B’nai B’rith Paraguay hosted a ceremony Nov. 18 with former Uruguayan foreign minister and former United Nations General Assembly President Didier Opertti serving as the keynote speaker.
“Every year our brothers and sisters in Latin America show a strong commitment to remembering Kristallnacht, which marks the descent into genocide against the Jewish people,” B’nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said in a statement. “Continuing this tradition of commemorating the Night of Broken Glass and including more and more members of the community at-large is the only way to ensure the events of those brutal days are not forgotten.”