Kirk unearths Scots minister’s account of Kristallnacht horror

Eye witness accounts provide fresh insight into Kristallnacht on 80th anniversary.
Eye witness accounts provide fresh insight into Kristallnacht on 80th anniversary.
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A unique document which lays bare the “depths of human misery” inflicted on Jewish people during the German pogrom which happened 80 years ago today has been discovered in Scottish archives.

Unearthed in the World Mission Council archive at the Church of Scotland offices in Edinburgh and made public for the first time, the book contains disturbing details of the attacks targeted at the Jewish community and serves as a reminder of what can happen when hatred and prejudice takes hold.

The typewritten document was compiled two months after “Kristallnacht” – literally “The Night of Broken Glass”, a wave of Nazi-orchestrated violence targeting Jewish people and their businesses on 9 and 10 November, 1938 – by Reverend Donald William Mackay, who was minister of the Scots International Church in Rotterdam in the Netherlands from 1934-40.

The preface of the document states: “What really did ­happen is worse by far than anything described in these pages.”

Reverend Ian Alexander, secretary to the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland, said yesterday: “It is extraordinary to unearth a document which shares first-hand knowledge and experience from people living through the desperate events of 1938, and their aftermath.

“It lays bare the depths of human misery inflicted upon those not seen as equal or as worthy.

“As we live through days when different faith groups are targeted, and those seeking asylum and fleeing for their lives or their freedom are increasingly demonised, it is a salutary lesson of the need to stand alongside those being persecuted, and seek to share Christ’s radical love for all.”

German officials claimed that Kristallnacht erupted in response to the assassination of a German diplomat, Ernst von Rath, at the hands of Polish Jewish teenager, Herschel Grynszpan, in Paris a few days earlier. It was instigated by Nazi Party officials and members of the Sturmabteilung – the Brownshirts – and the Hitler Youth.

Mirella Yandoli, interfaith programme officer for the Church of Scotland, said: “This archive is a timely reminder of both what happened 80 years ago and also the responsibility of the Church to act and draw attention to this hatred then and now.

“We need to take this anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on how easy it is to fall into the position of bystander and do nothing but lament.

“The most important thing we can do is to listen to those who are affected first and foremost before we decide how we can be an ally.”