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Sat Nov 10, 2018, 02:40 PM

PAST AS PROLOGUE The Long Shadow of Kristallnacht Hangs Over the Pittsburgh Shootings

The Long Shadow of Kristallnacht Hangs Over the Pittsburgh Shootings

The lethal violence in Pittsburgh and Germany 80 years ago have troubling similarities, including anti-Semitism in both instances and the equivocation of two presidents.

Nicolaus Mills
11.09.18 11:41 PM ET

As the mourning for the 11 victims of the assault on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh continues, the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht is upon us. On November 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi storm troopers led a wave of violent attacks on Jews throughout Germany that foreshadowed the coming of the Holocaust. During the “night of broken glass,” as the attacks were called, 91 Jews were killed and 195 synagogues were burned. In Vienna, Austrian Nazis, determined not to be outdone, set fire to the city’s 21 synagogues.

The Tree of Life murders were not state-sponsored terrorism. That is a crucial difference between now and then. But behind the Tree of Life murders are social forces with historic roots that should alarm us. The 11 deaths in Pittsburgh come at a time when the Anti-Defamation League notes that anti-Semitic incidents rose 57 percent in 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency.

The Tree of Life killings reflect the bias against immigrants that the Trump administration has encouraged. It is no coincidence, as Masha Gessen observed in The New Yorker, that Robert Bowers, the accused gunman in the Pittsburgh slayings, was obsessed with the work of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).

Hours before his attack on the Tree of Life synagogue, Bowers made clear his rage at the society by posting on the social network Gab, “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t stand by and watch my people get slaughtered.”


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