Far-Right Extremists Mar Commemorations in Germany of Nazi Pogrom of November 1938
As Germany marked the 82nd anniversary earlier this week of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during “Reichspogromnacht,” far-right extremists marked the occasion with rowdy demonstrations and vandalism.
The Jewish community in Dresden expressed “great disbelief and full indignation” at the demonstration held by Pegida — a far-right, anti-immigrant organization — in the city on Monday night.
And in the city of Bochum, a historical exhibition about German-Jewish athletes sponsored by the DFB — Germany’s national soccer association — was smashed up and defaced with antisemitic slogans on Tuesday.
Ahead of the solemn anniversary of the Nov. 9-10, 1938 pogrom — in which more than 1,300 Jews were murdered and 1,400 synagogues were burned as Nazi thugs rampaged against Jewish-owned property and institutions across Germany and Austria — Jewish leaders had warned that their community was today “still endangered.”
“In addition to growing right-wing extremism and the permanent threat of Islamists, the Corona crisis has also led to an increase in antisemitism,” Josef Schuster — president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany — declared in a statement last week.
Several thousand far-right activists gathered for Monday night’s Pegida rally in Dresden. City authorities said they were unable to prevent the rally from going ahead for legal reasons.
“Not even when it’s November 9, which many people find inappropriate,” a spokesperson for the city said.
The keynote speaker at the rally was Andreas Kalbitz, a prominent activist who has been designated as a far-right extremist by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, an official body that counters neo-Nazi and other extremist activities in Germany.
Several local politicians protested the rally, with the center-right FDP Party in Dresden pointing out in a statement that as Pegida supporters gathered in the center of the city, official commemorations of the Nov. 1938 pogrom “were reduced to a barely recognizable level” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jewish leaders also voiced condemnation. Rabbi Zsolt Balla — who serves the state of Saxony where Dresden is located — slammed the display as “absolutely tasteless,” charging participants with “historical amnesia.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, the exhibition in Bochum about Jewish athletes — titled “Between Success and Persecution: Jewish Stars of German Sport Before 1933” — was badly damaged by as-yet unidentified vandals.
Life-size plexiglass figures of Olympic champions Lilli Hennoch and brothers Alfred and Gustav Felix Flatow were smashed up and smeared with antisemitic graffiti.
The chairman of the DFB cultural foundation sponsoring the exhibit said that he had been horrified by the destruction.
“We are appalled and ashamed by the targeted destruction of several figures in the exhibition,” Dr. Göttrick Wewer said in a statement. “The date — the anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht — and the outlawed graffiti on one of the figures suggests an antisemitic motive.”