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UN observes anniversary of Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews

UN observes anniversary of Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews

A film screening and a panel discussion are being held at United Nations Headquarters today as the world body observes the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht, the violent pogrom in Germany and Austria against Jews and their homes, synagogues and businesses.

Organized by the Holocaust and UN Outreach Programme of the Department of Public Information (DPI), the screening and the discussion commemorate the events of 9-10 November 1938. The pogrom, known also as the “night of broken glass,” signalled an escalation in violence towards Jews that ultimately led to their mass murder during the Holocaust.

“Today, through the United Nations, we have the mandates and the body of international human rights laws and mechanisms to protect individual human rights and civil liberties,” Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka told the discussion participants in his opening remarks.

“But we did not have these institutions and systems in 1938, and little action was taken to cease the cruel treatment and murder of the Jews. Kristallnacht marked a turning point in the persecution and imprisonment of Jews. Thousands of sons and fathers were torn from their families and sent off to concentration camps that night,” Mr. Akasaka added.

The discussion examined the events leading up to the violence against Jewish people, how immigration policy contributed to the outcome and the lessons this history offers today. The event will also outline Jewish emigration to Shanghai as China was one of the few countries to offer a safe haven to Jews following the pogrom.

Gary Phillips, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor and witness to the Kristallnacht pogrom, which symbolized the shattering of Jewish life in Germany, shared his personal story of survival with participants to discussion, who also heard from the Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, as well as Jewish scholars.

The film, My Opposition: the Diaries of Friedrich Kellner, tells the story of a justice inspector in Nazi Germany who risked his life by campaigning against the Third Reich and secretly documenting their atrocities.