November 9, 2018

Bishop’s Message on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

Shop damaged during Kristallnacht

Bishop Patricia A. Davenport shares a pastoral letter on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in light the murders at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last month and a rising number of hate crimes against Jews.

Noting that later-life writings of Martin Luther were used to justify the pogrom, the bishop reminds us of the ELCA’s 1994 repudiation of Luther’s anti-Semitic writings in the Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community.

“We pray that God will continue to bless the growing cooperation and understanding between Lutherans and Jews, and we stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters against the scourge of hatred and anti-Semitism directed against them,” the bishop writes.


 

November 9, 2018

Beloved,

Today is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a pogrom during which synagogues were desecrated and burned, homes were vandalized, stores were looted, and Jews were beaten and murdered by German stormtroopers and civilians. Sadly, we Lutherans must recognize and confess that the writings of Martin Luther were used to justify these actions. As my colleague, Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, writes:

“Late in life, Luther wrote a pamphlet that demonized Jews with age-old superstitious stereotypes. While he did not call for physical harm, he advocated for the expulsion of Jews from Germany, as well as the burning of Jewish synagogues, schools, homes and books. While Luther’s ideas were reflected by his followers, and thankfully not carried out in his day, they were trotted out 400 years later.” [1]

Anti-Semitism is, unfortunately, still infecting our culture, as burned into our hearts by the vile murder of 11 congregants at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last month, and evidenced by a rising tide of hate crimes against Jews, including the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia last year. This sad anniversary calls us to recommit ourselves to the repudiation of Luther’s later, anti-Semitic writings, as voiced by the ELCA to the Jewish community in 1994:

“As did many of Luther’s own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations. …Grieving the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred, moreover, we express our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people. We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and an affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us.” [2]

We pray that God will continue to bless the growing cooperation and understanding between Lutherans and Jews, and we stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters against the scourge of hatred and anti-Semitism directed against them.

In Christ,

Bishop Patricia A. Davenport

 

 

[1] Bishop Michael Rinehart, “The 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht”

[2] Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community

Photo above: “Shop Damaged During Kristallnacht,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Photo below: “View of the destroyed interior of the Hechingen synagogue the day after Kristallnacht,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

 

View of the destroyed interior of the Hechingen synagogue the day after Kristallnacht

View of the destroyed interior of the Hechingen synagogue the day after Kristallnacht.