11th Annual Kristallnacht Commemoration

Sacred Heart University recently held its 11th annual Kristallnacht commemoration in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. On Nov. 9, the Office of Mission Integration hosted Endre Sarkany, a Holocaust survivor born in Budapest, Hungary on Oct. 31, 1936.

According to The Associated Press, Holocaust survivors from around the world are warning about the reemergence of antisemitism as they marked the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht—the “Night of Broken Glass”—when Nazis terrorized Jews throughout Germany and Austria. The name refers to the shattered windows of Jewish-owned homes and businesses that lined the streets afterward.

Aside from discussing his experience with the holocaust, Sarkany made an interesting point that captivated the crowd. He told the crowd to never use the word hate. So many people use it, “but you don’t know what real hate looks like,” said Sarkany.

Senior Jonah Savage, President of Chaverim Yehudim (Jewish Club), and his organization played a role in the commemoration.

“I think the most important part of Mr. Sarkany’s speech is to never use the word hate. There is so much negativity in our world today, and if we simply took the word hate out of our vocabulary, so much of that would go away. Hate is such a strong word, yet we use it so  freely and ignore the context behind it,” said Savage.

Sarkany was unable to attend college in Hungary based solely on his religion. “I graduated from the high school in 1955 and was undesirable just because I was Jewish. I could not go to college,” said Sarkany.

According to the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center, Sarkany was fortunate to escape Hungary after the October 1956 uprising and was able to immigrate to the United States. He received his bachelor’s degree from Tusculum College in Tennessee and his Master of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

Sarkany spoke on the horrors that occurred at the death camps throughout Europe. His father was taken to Mauthausen concentration camp in 1944. Sarkany’s father was fortunate to survive but lived with the trauma for the years that followed.

“Young and old, weak and strong were captured and brought to the death camps. They were told to get undressed and showered to get ready for their uniforms. They showered in gas showers, then they were taken to be burned,” said Sarkany.

“Hosting events like the Kristallnacht Commemoration are important because it is important that we never forget our history and where we’ve come from. More importantly, we need events like this because antisemitism is still engrained in our world,” said Savage.

“There are people in the mainstream media today who are sharing their anti-Jewish views and getting defended for their views. This cannot happen. How in 84 years have we not learned the dangers of sharing hateful views is beyond me,” said Savage.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents in Connecticut alone increased 42% in 2021. Recently, celebrities like Kanye West have expressed antisemitic comments across various social media platforms and on podcasts. Many are anticipating a further rise in antisemitic incidents and rhetoric.

Sarkany’s words highlighted the work still to do to combat antisemitism in daily life and on a national scale. As the SHU community heard in his talk, stopping one act of hate can prevent a wave of vitriol—a message that extends to all forms of injustice.

Freshman Victoria Grillo said, “Mr. Sarkany’s speech was incredibly moving and impactful. Hearing about the Holocaust in high school, I was only able to understand so much of the devastation. Learning from Mr. Sarkany firsthand, I could see beyond just the facts that I’ve learned.”

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