If we are to learn anything from Kristallnacht it is a reminder to us all of where unchecked racism and intolerance can lead and underscores our responsibility as human beings to ensure that such evil is always confronted whenever and wherever it occurs. The Holocaust did not begin with the gas chambers at Auschwitz, it did not even begin with Kristallnacht – it began with words and was reacted to with silence. The extermination of European Jewry took place at the end of a long road, a long history marked by centuries of age-old antisemitism and prejudice dating back to the middle ages and most significantly it was a long road marked by indifference. Nor was the Holocaust a mere symptom of the time; the era. As we have seen repeatedly in the years that have followed the Holocaust genocide and atrocities have plagued every corner of the globe and continue to do so.
We cannot and must not consign the terror and cruelty of that night to our history books or fool ourselves into believing that it was a history belonging to a different era. To remove ourselves in this way is to remove our own responsibility in fighting racism and intolerance today.
How we enter into the silencing of others' voices to witness to what has not been heard individually and collectively is the topic of Flora Keshgegian's book, Redeeming Memories, A Theology of Healing and Transformation. She writes:
The silence that enshrouds the memories of those abused, persecuted and oppressed is not accidental or chosen; it is a silencing by a world with designs to exclude. These threatened memories and peoples are in actuality themselves threats to sociopolitical narratives which reflect and produce particular arrangements of power, serving certain interests. "Truth" is politically produced through the shaping of meaning. The "word" which we know begins as an empty sign, malleable to the play of power in the world. Attending to the silence includes being attuned to silencing that results from oppression or denial. It requires a critical consciousness of such dynamics and forces, a sharpening of the ear to hear those sounds not found in the scales we have practiced. These sounds will lead to more complex understandings of word and world….