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Arts & Culture

Central Florida arts orgs commemorate Kristallnacht

Remembering the horrifying Nazi rampage 75 years later

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On Nov. 9, 1938, Nazi soldiers and sympathizers throughout Germany smashed the windows and doors of thousands of Jewish-owned businesses, set more than 900 synagogues ablaze, and rounded up 30,000 Jewish men to cart off to concentration camps. The rest of the world saw what happened and remained silent. From Sept. 15 through Dec. 20, arts organizations in Central Florida will present programming in conjunction with the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida’s annual commemoration of that dark night known as Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass.

“We remember Kristallnacht for all of those terrible nights between 1935 and 1945,” says Susan Mitchell, project director at the Holocaust Memorial Resource Center. Between 1935 and 1938, the Nazi regime passed ever more laws to limit the rights of Jewish citizens. When a young Jewish man assassinated a German diplomat to draw international attention to German Jews’ plight, the state security service initiated a massive crackdown.

“It was a night that in some ways was no different than other nights that followed – destruction of property, the arrest of people, pillaging and murders – but we remember [Kristallnacht] because it was probably the most widely publicized event of that era. … [Even] the front page of the Dallas Morning News reported on the assaults on the Jewish community by Nazis and brownshirts, and yet the world didn’t respond,” Mitchell says. To remedy that in some way, the Holocaust Center (along with survivors’ groups around the world) has commemorated Kristallnacht for the past 30 years. This year they’ve partnered with the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Bach Festival Society, the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation and other Central Florida arts organizations to present programming for Kristallnacht’s 75th anniversary.

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College hosts the exhibition Auktion 392: Reclaiming the Galerie Stern, Düsseldorf. The exhibit (which opens Tuesday, Sept. 17, and runs through Dec. 8) tells the story of the artworks plundered from the gallery run by Max Stern, who under Nazi law lost the right to own a business. Like many others, the gallery’s collection was forcibly auctioned off. A re-creation of the auction environment, including images of the lots, forms one of three modules of the exhibit, which also documents efforts to recover the Stern collection and other stolen works. A panel discussion Sept. 17 will address recent efforts to return art stolen under ostensibly legal auspices to its rightful owners.

On Nov. 9 and 10, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park performs the oratorio A Child of Our Time, by Sir Michael Tippett, who wrote both the score and libretto about Kristallnacht between 1939 and 1941. The work incorporates structural elements from Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Passions while using African-American spirituals as melodic source material. This association with the pathos of spirituals inspired another collaboration for the Holocaust Resource Center – a program of spirituals presented by the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation at Eatonville’s Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church on Oct. 6 adds another dimension to the three-month commemoration of Kristallnacht.

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