Sunday, November 10, 2013

The 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht

This is the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, also known as the "Night of Broken Glass."  Kristallnacht actually took place on two days:  November 9th and 10th, of 1938.  It was a brutal and widespread pogrom, organized by the Nazis, taking place in Germany, and elsewhere.

As noted on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. Many synagogues burned throughout the night, in full view of the public and of local firefighters, who had received orders to intervene only to prevent flames from spreading to nearby buildings. SA [Storm Troopers] and Hitler Youth members across the country shattered the shop windows of an estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned commercial establishments, and looted their wares. Jewish cemeteries became a particular object of desecration in many regions.

The pogrom proved especially destructive in Berlin and Vienna, home to the two largest Jewish communities in the German Reich. Mobs of SA men roamed the streets, attacking Jews in their houses and forcing Jews they encountered to perform acts of public humiliation. Although murder did not figure in the central directives, Kristallnacht claimed the lives of at least 91 Jews between 9 and 10 November. Police records of the period document a high number of rapes and of suicides in the aftermath of the violence.

As the pogrom spread, units of the SS and Gestapo (Secret State Police), following [head of the Security Police Reinhard] Heydrich's instructions, arrested up to 30,000 Jewish males, and transferred most of them from local prisons to Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and other concentration camps. Significantly, Kristallnacht marks the first instance in which the Nazi regime incarcerated Jews on a massive scale simply on the basis of their ethnicity. Hundreds died in the camps as a result of the brutal treatment they endured; most obtained release over the next three months on the condition that they begin the process of emigration from Germany. Indeed, the effects of Kristallnacht would serve as a spur to the emigration of Jews from Germany in the months to come.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hurricane Sandy

As a New Jersey resident, I was (like millions of others) affected by Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall in the Garden State a year ago yesterday.

But that which I experienced was minimal. I was, for example, without power for a couple of days. There were shortages of gasoline, for a time. After the supermarket near my apartment reopened--I cannot recall how long it was closed; probably a day or two--there were certain relatively minor food shortages, for a period.

To emphasize this: what I encountered, a year ago (as disorienting as parts of the experience may have felt), was simply nothing--just nothing--when compared to the ways in which the storm disrupted and changed the lives of so many others.

I am thinking, this week, about the families and individuals who endured so much, last year--and about those whose lives, today, continue to be so profoundly altered by the storm.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kudos to George H.W. Bush

It was nice to read this story about former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who served as an official witness, this past weekend, to a same-sex marriage ceremony, in Maine:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

President Obama's Sept.10th speech about Syria

The President's speech, in which he made the case for confronting the Syrian regime, concerning its use of chemical weapons, was excellent.  Here is the transcript of the speech:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

President Obama, and the Trayvon Martin case

An editorial from The New York Times, about the President's important remarks on Friday, concerning Trayvon Martin, and the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Recommended Reading: "The One and Only Ivan"

The novel The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, is intended for children eight and older. It received the 2013 Newbery Medal, the prestigious award for children's literature. Yet (as is the case with many books written for children and young adults), adults should not be dissuaded from reading it. It is a wonderfully written, and deeply moving book.

Here, too, is the book's website:

And lastly, here is an interview with author Katherine Applegate:

Monday, June 3, 2013


One  has watched and read about, with sorrow, and shock, the deadly, wildly destructive tornadoes in Oklahoma.  It is hard to conceive what it is like, to be swept up in--and (if one survives) to then seek to recover from--that kind of cataclysm.

And then, there is the awful destruction--as in the Boston bombings--which comes not from the immense power of nature, but from human agency:  from human cruelty, sociopathy, murderous ideology.

I haven't posted anything, in this space, since the traumatic events of April, in Massachusetts.  

A few nights after the Marathon bombings--the grotesque, inhuman, evil acts which were committed--I hosted my weekly radio program, and spoke at some length about what had happened.  Earlier that evening, the video and still images of the suspects had been released. 

The next night, there was the battle in Watertown, following the murder of the MIT police officer.   A transit officer was also, of course, gravely wounded, in Watertown.

I remained in front of the TV all night (more than 200 miles away, in northern New Jersey), watching the events in Watertown.  

The following week, I spoke a bit more, on my program, about the bombings, and their aftermath.  Yet my words, that evening, felt to me inadequate. 

Seven weeks later, I remain just staggered by what took place, continue to feel great sadness about the deaths, and the grievous injuries which were inflicted. 

I grew up just outside of Boston, my father lives less than a few miles from where the bombings occurred, and I have talked often, with family, and friends, about the events of April. During that time I have tried to write a few posts about that which took place, but the words, on paper, have also seemed inadequate, and I have put the writing aside.  

Yet while I have felt a kind of paralysis, in seeking to write about the terrible events in Boston, and their aftermath,  I watch, with great admiration, and awe, as those who were directly affected, who were so deeply traumatized (those who lost loved ones, or lost limbs--and those who were otherwise wounded, in both physical or emotional ways), have made clear their determination to move forward:  that they are resuming, or seeking to resume--with bravery and fortitude--the course of their lives.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Philip Roth's Newark"

From the first week of March, in The New York Times:

On March 19th, Mr. Roth will turn 80 years old.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A very funny interview with Dave Barry

From the on-line edition of The New York Times Book Review:

Here, too, is the amazon link for Mr. Barry's new novel, Insane City:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The National Rifle Association

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre gave a characteristically distasteful speech this week, in which he attacked President Obama.  The leaders at the NRA certainly know how to give distasteful speeches, and interviews.

LaPierre's speech follows the repellent TV advertisement the group recently put out, an ad which invoked the Obama children.

The advertisement's narrator asked: “Are the president's kids more important than yours?”

Here, too, is a story about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's criticism of the NRA advertisement:,0,1052799.story