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Posted: Friday 8 November, 2013 at 10:29 PM

Germany marks Nazi pogrom anniversary with vigils, Twitter

A candle is lit at the Or Avner traditional Jewish school in Berlin, on November 8, 2013 during a visit by Israel's chief rabbi to speak to children about Kristallnacht, the November 1938 Nazi anti-Jewish pogrom
By: Deborah COLE, Berlin (AFP)

    (Berlin, DEU) - Holocaust survivors, political leaders and ordinary citizens will mark the 75th anniversary of the Nazi pogrom Kristallnacht in Germany Saturday with solemn ceremonies and innovative tributes to the victims.


    Rather than conducting one central memorial event, Germany will see smaller commemorations throughout the weekend including striking art projects, Twitter initiatives and silent vigils.


    The attacks of November 9 and 10, 1938, saw Nazi thugs plunder Jewish businesses throughout Germany, torch synagogues and round up about 30,000 Jewish men for deportation to concentration camps.


    At least 90 Jews were killed in the orgy of violence, also known as 'The Night of Broken Glass', which historians say ushered in the start of the Nazis' drive to wipe out European Jewry.


    The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, hoped for "honest, emotional concern" on the part of Germans on the anniversary and urged continued vigilance against hatred.


    "The lesson that we must draw is as simple as it is clear: never again will we allow ourselves to be attacked because of our Judaism. Never again will we allow ourselves to be intimidated," he told Saturday's Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung.


    President Joachim Gauck was to pay his respects at a synagogue in the eastern city of Eberswalde near Berlin which was destroyed in the rampage, and where there is now a memorial made from the building's rediscovered foundations and freshly planted trees.


    He will later travel to nearby Frankfurt an der Oder, where he was to speak ahead of a memorial concert.


    Churches in Berlin have planned a silent march to the site of an obliterated synagogue in the city centre in which Mayor Klaus Wowereit will take part.


    Wowereit will later address a memorial event organised by the Jewish community of the capital and attended by the Israeli ambassador, Yakov Hadas-Handelsmann.


    But the anniversary has also inspired more unconventional forms of remembrance.


    A Twitter account, @9Nov38, launched by historian Moritz Hoffmann last month and called "Heute vor 75 Jahren" (75 Years Ago Today), offers historical accounts of the repressive measures.


    "Sunrise in Kassel. Few people on the street, but a lot of glass shards and destroyed furnishings in front of more than 20 shops," read one tweet.


    The account has already attracted more than 4,200 followers, with organisers saying they hope to reach a younger generation of Germans by harnessing social media.


    Meanwhile around 120 retailers in Berlin have affixed adhesive film to their shop windows depicting the jagged pattern of broken glass to commemorate the destruction levelled against Jewish merchants.


    The stickers are concentrated in areas of central Berlin that were targeted by the Nazi looters in 1938, with participants including Germany's most famous department store KaDeWe.


    And Berliners are being called upon to polish "Stolpersteine" memorials for Jews in their neighbourhoods.


    The "stumbling blocks" are small plaques bearing the names of Holocaust victims embedded in the street in front of their last known address, along with their dates of birth and facts about their deportation.


    City magazines have printed advertisements for the campaign, complete with an attached cleaning cloth for volunteers. Tour guides will lead residents to local sites of Jewish life before the Holocaust.


    Against the backdrop of the commemorations, a report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) on Friday showed that anti-Semitism has deepened across Europe over the past five years, facilitated by social media and file-sharing websites.


    Last week Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to be watchful for the dangers of anti-Semitism, calling Kristallnacht "one of the darkest moments in German history".


    While she hailed the flourishing Jewish community in Germany now numbering more than 200,000 people, she lamented "the reality that no Jewish institution can be left without police protection".


    In Austria, where Jews were also targeted in the wake of the German annexation, President Heinz Fischer was to speak Sunday during ceremonies organised by the Jewish community.


    And in the city of Innsbruck, the local Social Democratic Party plans to hold an 'anti-fascist walk' to sites of the pogrom.



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