By Gloria Berger
I was born on Nov. 12, three days after the anniversary of “Kristallnacht,” the “night of broken glass” and the beginning of the horror of the 20th century for the Jewish people and other innocents.
Ironically, there is an age-old, mysterious custom at Jewish weddings in which the bridegroom stamps on a glass wrapped in a white handkerchief, signifying the end of the ceremony. 1 was told through the years that this is done to destroy all the doubts and fears of childhood within the hearts of young brides.
There is an array of other explanations as well.
The one I like best is a reminder of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem some two millennia ago; and in a larger sense, a reminder that the world itself is broken and imperfect. But no Jew ever imagined that the breaking of glass would also signify the beginning of a journey through Hell for Europe’s Jewry.
More than 60 years have passed since that infamous pogrom of 1938. Sadly, the world could not be counted on to remember it forever — especially now, after we just experienced a 21st century example of evil — but I do remember.
Every time I remember my birthday, I remember that anniversary. How can my brain erase the scene of mobs, urged on by the Nazi regime, running amok throughout Germany and Austria murdering, looting, smashing Jewish shop windows and burning synagogues? Thirty thousand Jews were “arrested” — including many of my close relatives.
I know that every generation is born innocent. That is bad for history, but necessary for life.
At my birthday parties, I hear my husband’s laughter and the cheerful cries of friends and family. At the same time, I hear the distant echo of breaking glass — from Nov. 9, 1938, and from Sept. 11, 2001.
Can I ever forget? Can any of us forget?
Gloria Berger is an early childhood teacher.