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Germanys, Austria Mark 'Crystal Night'

November 10, 1988|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

FRANKFURT, West Germany — Germans and Austrians gathered Wednesday to observe the 50th anniversary of the event that ushered in the Holocaust, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl was interrupted by heckling as he attempted a national atonement for the Nazi pogrom against Jews in Germany.

Kohl's speech, one of many events marking the anniversary in East and West Germany and Austria of the so-called Kristallnacht , or "Crystal Night," was delivered in a restored, Byzantine-style Jewish synagogue near the center of this commercial capital.

During the 1938 event, sometimes called the "night of the broken glass," Nazi mobs burned and pillaged Jewish homes, stores and synagogues in Germany and Austria, killing scores and rounding up tens of thousands for shipment to concentration camps.

Kohl's address was intended to be a gesture of public contrition toward Germany's Jewish community, which numbered 550,000 before World War II but has been reduced to only 30,000 today.

As he spoke, a young heckler in the balcony yelled out, "Chancellor, you are lying!" Later in the proceedings, other hecklers said they objected to Kohl's encouragement to Jews to return to live in Germany.

Hecklers also said they were objecting to Kohl's 1985 visit with President Reagan to a war cemetery in Bitburg, where some members of the elite Nazi SS force are buried.

In his nationally televised speech, Chancellor Kohl asserted that Jews now are integrated into German society.

When he addressed the audience as "My dear Jewish fellow citizens," the protesters shouted at him.

But he managed to make his point that Kristallnacht demonstrated hatred for the Jews so clearly that "from that day, everyone should have known that anti-Semitism was the core of Nazi ideology."

'Cause of Deep Shame'

The chancellor added, "It is hard to understand--and it remains a cause of deep shame--that the majority kept silent on Nov. 9 and 10."

The synagogue protesters said later that Kohl, in previous speeches, had glossed over the Nazi period in Germany and suggested that the past should be forgotten.

During the ceremony, Heinz Galinski, leader of West Germany's Jewish community, said that after Kristallnacht , no one in Germany or Austria could claim not to have known that the Nazis were determined to exterminate the Jews.

He suggested that the date should be a national memorial day in both East and West Germany.

In Vienna, the Austrian Parliament observed a moment of silence for victims. Chancellor Franz Vranitzky said the event should continue to serve as a warning against anti-Semitism.

He said anti-Semitism has a long and dangerous tradition in Austria, declaring:

"It is not enough to say: 'Today all is different, the conditions have changed and we too have become different.'

"Fascism has many faces and wears many different clothes. It is not enough to pay periodic lip service to tolerance."

Rabbi Avi Weiss of New York and two other Jewish activists symbolically reenacted the Nazi practice of forcing Jews to wash the streets of Vienna with toothbrushes.

East Germany also observed the day, but with a different emphasis, dwelling on support that Communists gave the Jews during the Holocaust, the Associated Press reported.

Erich Honecker, president and Communist Party chief, said in a message to the small Jewish community that Communists and Jews had been friends and allies in the "anti-fascist struggle."

Horst Sindermann, president of the East German Parliament, made a speech Tuesday rejecting responsibility for Nazi atrocities and repeating the East German argument that German Communists had stood by the Jews.

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