On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Sacred Heart University held its annual Kristallnacht Commemoration to remember “The Night of Broken Glass” and the victims of the Holocaust.
“It was a moving event and we were pleased with the number of people who were watching live,” said Patrick Turner, Assistant to the Vice President of the Office of Mission Integration, Ministry, and Multicultural Affairs.
Kristallnacht, which took place the night of Nov. 9 to the morning of Nov. 10, 1938, was the first event in a series of pogroms against the Jewish population that led to the Holocaust. Nazis in Germany torched over 200 synagogues, destroyed 7,500 Jewish businesses and stores, and vandalized Jewish cemeteries.
“It was a very violent night that not only physically destroyed the Jewish community in Germany but also destroyed their spirits,” said Rabbi Marcello Kormis.
The event on Wednesday had multiple speakers including junior Trenton Gardner, senior Cameron Silver, Professor David Title, Father Anthony Ciorra, Reverend Sara Smith and Imam Gazmend Aga.
“I was very moved by the greetings from Cameron Silver and the closing remarks by Chris Quigley,” said Turner.
The guest speaker was Rabbi Marcello Kormis, Sacred Heart’s Jewish chaplain and adjunct professor as well as the Rabbi of Congregation Bethel in Fairfield. Kormis’s grandparents were living in Germany during Kristallnacht.
Kormis is originally from Chile, was ordained in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2003, studied in Israel and moved to Fairfield in 2012.
“I feel honored to have the opportunity to share some of my thoughts, my ideas and my experiences,” said Kormis.
This year’s commemoration theme was “Learning from the past to build a better future,” and Kormis highlighted this in his speech by tying historical events to the ongoing anti-Semitism that exists today.
To end the event, there was a ceremonial lighting of six candles to symbolize and remember the six million Jewish people who were killed during the Holocaust and naming of concentration camps.
“I think the event was done really well,” said sophomore Julia Dimino. “This is my second year going and I felt very moved both times.”
Although Sacred Heart is a Catholic university, they hold this event annually to educate students and faculty.
“Every year now there have been fewer and fewer living Holocaust survivors,” said Turner. “For us, it is imperative to keep their memories alive.”
According to The Associated Press, 48% of U.S. Millennials and Gen Z cannot name a single concentration camp established during World War II. Sacred Heart holds this event, and others like it, to help change this statistic.
“Education isn’t just learning a bunch of facts so you can get a job,” said Father Anthony Ciorra, Vice President of the Office of Mission Integration, Ministry, and Multicultural Affairs. “We are also educating people for life.”
Every year, Sacred Heart’s Kristallnacht Commemoration is open to the public, but this year due to the event being virtual, even more people were able to join.
“I think there are challenges with holding a virtual event, but there are also opportunities, like reaching out to a broader audience who would not be able to attend in person,” said Kormis.
Through events like this, Sacred Heart works to recognize students and staff of different faiths or of no faith at all.
“I think it’s important for us, as a Catholic institution, to continually connect our mission and ministry to other faiths and religious traditions,” said Turner.
The annual Kristallnacht Commemoration livestream can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkrGGDBTG5I&list=UU80gjzN0yPX5OHWnCuKDcAQ .