TWO ANNIVERSARIES – Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah – SJN, November 2018

For the past four years here in Britain, we have been commemorating the centenary of the First World War. Each year, the nation marks Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. This year, which marks hundred years since the war ended, both fall on 11th November. At the time, of course, this terrible conflict, which destroyed so many lives, was known simply as ‘The Great War’. It was only when conflict returned to the continent of Europe in 1939 that it gained a new name, designating it as the First World War.

11th November is going to be a very unique moment. For Jews across the world, there is another significant anniversary that immediately precedes it: the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the ‘Night of the Broken Glass’, 9th to 10th November 1938. This year, Kristallnacht falls on Shabbat. So: from Friday evening on the 9th through Sunday, 11th: a time for reflection and remembrance.

It has been some years now, since there have been any survivors of the First World War to share their testimony with us. Soon, those who lived through Kristallnacht will also no longer be alive to talk about what happened to them. At BHPS, one of those who experienced that terrible moment when the persecution of the Jews of Germany transmuted into a campaign of violence, Rose Cannan, Z”L, sadly died in November 2016 at the age of 94. Fortunately, she wrote her autobiography, In Paris We Sang. A Memoir (Ashgrove Publishing, 2013) which includes her Kristallnacht story, so her testimony has been preserved for present and future generations. We are blessed that among our membership, another Kristallnacht witness is still in our midst: Margarete Mendelsohn. She was only eight years old at the time. Margarete has also written her autobiography: The Nazis Through the Eyes of a Child (My Voice Publishing, 2012).

At BHPS, we will be holding a special Shabbat of commemoration to mark the 80th anniversary Kristallnacht, and we are delighted that we will be joined by Rabbi Tamarah Benima and members of the Beit HaChidush congregation in Amsterdam, aware that the Jewish community in the Netherlands lives in the shadow of the Sho’ah to this day. On Erev Shabbat, after the service, Dr David Jünger, Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Sussex, will speak to us about Kristallnacht. The Shabbat morning service will include readings from the memoirs of Rose and Margarete, as well as scholarly accounts from historians, Lucy Dawidowicz and Martin Gilbert. In the afternoon, Margarete will talk to us about her experience. During lunch, we will go upstairs to the library, where one wall is adorned with two portraits by artist, Pauline Lewis. One is of Rose Cannan, the other is of Hans Levy, Z”L, another beloved member of the congregation, who came to England on the kindertransport and died in June 2016. Aware that those who have joined the congregation during the past two years did not meet Rose and Hans, their portraits are now accompanied by brief texts, so everyone will know who they were. Remembrance is vital – and informing ourselves is also essential if we are going to ensure that future generations also remember. Books about the Sho’ah, including Rose’s and Margarete’s autobiographies, will be on display in the foyer and in the library. Zichronam livrachah – May the memory of all those who were murdered be for blessing.