JUNE 21, 2018, BOSTON – Yom HaShoah was observed in April and the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass,” does not arrive until November. But both commemorations were front stage at Faneuil Hall on June 10 during “Rededication to Resiliency: Community Holocaust Commemoration of Yom HaShoah,” a rededication of the restored New England Holocaust Memorial that was twice vandalized in 2017.
As the dwindling group of local Holocaust survivors were escorted into the hall, the Zachor Choral Ensemble, a group of singers started over 30 years ago by survivor Jacob Birnbaum to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive through music, opened the observance with “Ani Ma’amin” (“I Believe”), a testimony of faith that was sung by many of the victims of the Holocaust as they were led to their deaths.
The events of Kristallnacht were brought to mind last year and invoked at the ceremony because of the shattered glass shards found at the foot of the Holocaust Memorial in Boston after vandals smashed panels in June and again in August. Kristallnacht, the Nazi-orchestrated widespread destruction of Jewish property in November 1938, takes its name from the piles of broken glass that littered the streets throughout Germany and other parts of the regions the Nazis occupied. The aftermath of the Boston vandalism proved to be a visual and visceral reminder that anti-Semitism and other forms of ethnic and racial intolerance are on the rise again and Boston is not immune.
Steve Ross, a Holocaust survivor who championed the creation of the memorial that first opened to the public in 1995, recently published his memoir, “From Broken Glass: My Story of Finding Hope in Hitler’s Death Camps to Inspire a New Generation.” Those who attended the rededication found a copy of the book waiting on their seats.
After introductory remarks from Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke to the audience of several hundred about the resilience and strength of the city and its surrounding communities. Matan Zamir, Deputy Consul General of Israel to New England, was then followed by Ralf Horlemann, Consul General of Germany in Boston, who expressed love and appreciation to the community and shame and remorse over what his country did during World War II.
Motivated by the fact that the second act of vandalism at the memorial last summer was allegedly carried out by a 17-year-old from Malden, a contingent of Malden High School students filled their own reserved section at the rededication. They were there not only to acknowledge the solemn occasion, but also to recognize two students from their school who were among the winners in the 12th annual Israel Arbeiter Holocaust Essay Contest. Arbeiter, one of the few Holocaust survivors remaining in the Boston area, visited Malden High last year.
Senior Sherley Maximim took first place in the upper division for her piece titled “The Night of Broken Glass, the Broken Promises.” Joanne Ho, a junior, was the third-place winner. Second place went to Kayleigh Flanagan of Stoughton High School.
A highlight of the ceremony was the personal testimony of Esther Adler, a Holocaust survivor, author, and activist from Canton who vividly recalled being awakened on the night of Nov. 9, 1938, by the clamor and crashes in the street as the windows of a Jewish-owned store were smashed by Nazis who had taken over her Polish village.
At the closing of the rededication, visitors were invited to take the short walk to the memorial to find their own personal connection with the spirit expressed there.
Larry Constantine is a North Shore writer. He publishes fiction under the name Lior Samson.