In November 1938, less than a year before World War II, Nazi storm troopers burned and ransacked Jewish businesses and synagogues across Germany. The night of November 9 was dubbed Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass," because the streets were covered with broken glass from smashed shop windows. By the end of the night, 91 people were killed, hundreds of synagogues burned, and 7,000 businesses destroyed.
In Berlin, the memorial ceremony was attended by German President Roan Herzog, Israel's Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Some of the speakers expressed concerns about a resurgence of anti-Semitism. Ignatz Bubis, the leader of Germany's Jews, noted with alarm that ideas once considered extremist have become mainstream, specifically pointing to German author Martin Walser. In a recent speech, Walser said the media use Nazi atrocities to make Germans feel guilty about their past.
In Dresden, the city's small Jewish community broke ground for a new synagogue to replace the one burned by the Nazis. Several other big-city synagogues are being rebuilt only as computer models, with students recreating the building from blueprints, photos, and descriptions by survivors. The reconstructions are being posted on the Internet.
In a ceremony held on Sunday in Wroclaw, now in southwest Poland, a memorial was unveiled at the site of one of the synagogues that was burned. At the time Wroclaw was called Breslau, and was home to Germany's second biggest Jewish congregation. People of Jewish, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran religious persuasions, including the German and American ambassadors to Poland, prayed together at the site.
In Vienna, a symposium organized by Jews opened with a 1938 Austrian radio broadcast from the site of a burned synagogue. The radio report accused Jews of laziness and cowardice. At that gathering, Nazi hunter Simon Weisenthal said crimes on Kristallnacht still go unpunished. "It was not possible to find witnesses," Weisenthal said.
In the fall of 1938 there were 150,000 Jews living in Vienna; today there are only about 7,000.