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Crystal Night remembered

Just back to Warsaw after visiting Wrocław for the commemoration yesterday evening of the Crystal Night 1938. Why were we there, my wife Karin and I? First of all because our Raoul Wallenberg exhibition were opened there in the White Stork Synagogue - a  cooperation with the Bente Kahan foundation agreed between us when I first visited the city in September.

The environment for the exhibition couldn’t be better. The life and legacy of Raoul Wallenberg is presented in this remarkable synagogue, quite recently renovated with Norwegian support and with Bente Kahan as the driving force. It is now functioning not only as a religious but even more as a cultural centre – something that was clearly demonstrated to us yesterday.

The picture above is one example. A spectacular installation called “Black Crystal” by the artist Jerzy Kalina in the courtyard just outside the synagogue, combined with music played on celllo from a window above. I hope and believe that the very special atmosphere around the installation also can reach out in cyberspace, it was really as remarkable as it was symbolical.

That courtyard also constituted the starting point for the March of Mutual Respect – with a significant number of participants including the Mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz – which continued to the place where the other synagogue of the city was destroyed during the Crystal night. Short speeches, many candles, a very special feeling of solidarity, unity – and urgency.

Afterwards we got the opportunity to hear more about the plans to establish a Holocaust position at the Jewish Studies Department of Wrocław University (with the long term goal to go even further and found an International Institute for Jewish Studies in the city). Exciting and encouraging to say the least.

I am very happy to see our Raoul Wallenberg exhibition now circulating around Poland. Some weeks ago Katowice. Now Wrocław. And more cities will follow. Both beacuse there is so much that could be said about what he managed to do, saving so many Jews in Budapest autumn 1944. But also because there is so much to learn by his example. In my speech yesterday I touched upon the role of human rights defenders: “Keeping the memory of Raoul Wallenberg alive is also a way of constantly reminding ourselves of our duty to protect human rights – and to protect all those brave individuals who protect human rights. … Because that’s the only way that we can ultimately make the motto ‘never again’ a reality. And make sure that tomorrow will never ever be lost in horrors of this kind anywhere in the world. Raoul Wallenberg showed us how to do it.”

He made a difference. All of us can, one way or the other. To abstain from action should never be an option. The horrors of the Crystal Night should be an eternal reminder of that.

 

 


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