The Slippery Slope starts with Words

The silence was ear deafening. One by one candles were lit by the tender hands of the female Rabbi. As the mourners kaddish filled the room said by numerous Jewish and Interreligious voices the grief formed a strong bond of commitment binding together the gathered people of different walks of life and faith.

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The slippery slope starts with words.” David Harris, Chief Executive and CEO of AJC, reminded in a calm and even more so intense voice of how the path leading to the Holocaust began long before the Kristallnacht on Nov 9, 1938. The big auditorium of the German General Consulate was filled to the brink as AJC together with the German Consul General David Gill and Ruth Zimbler, a 90 year old Kristallnacht survivor, commemorated together this despicable and tragic moment in German history.

I shivered in my seat as the events past and present simultaneously went through my mind. Kristallnacht began way before 1938. But in my mind they suddenly appeared isochronal. Wiping away the 80 year divide with one blink of an eye and a simple, but ever so wise statement.

The slippery slope starts with words.

Most beginnings are quiet. Almost silent or with few words change will begin to unfold. No one back in the spring of 1912 as Hitler was stranded in a Men´s home in Vienna had ever thought this drop-out and postcard painter would later become the greatest criminal and murderer of over 6 million people. Back then, his audience was small as he voiced his thoughts about race and inferiority of the Jews. Hitler then was still the underestimated outsider. The underdog. A existence he later very successfully used to climb to the highest political ranks as he spread disaster of almost the whole world.

My eyes were fixated to the lit memorial candles as if I tried to hold on to hope despite disaster past and present. But the sentence had a tight grip to my thoughts as I could feel my heartbeat increase even though I was sitting.

The slippery slope starts with words.”

As my head was spinning my thoughts were pulled to Germany of January 1933. It was in the office of the Reich President that Hindenburg expressed is great satisfaction that the political right had at last united against all the liberal and democratic forces. As Hitler himself swore he would act in the good of the whole nation, Hindenburg gave this political newcomer his blessings. In one voice, as it is stated through different sources, the call of Hitler as new Reichs Chancellor was underpinned with a single sentence: “And now, gentlemen, forward with God.”

As a woman of God, a faith leader and a German this heresy and abuse of faith is deeply hurtful. Even then, many, even Hindenburg, hadn’t suspected that they were already on a slippery slope leading to disaster, murder and destruction.

The slippery slope starts with words.”

May this sentence remind us of the power of words, which can develop the beautiful and more so the disastrous. “The Anti-Defamation League logged a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017, compared to the previous year — including bomb threats, assaults, vandalism, and anti-Semitic posters and literature found on college campuses.” (1) Words of hate and anti-Semitism lead to the deadliest attack towards Jews in the US in Pittsburgh as eleven innocent believers were murdered by a white supremacist. We know by now that the perpetrator Robert Bowers was encouraged and fed by anti-Semitic words and thoughts expressed by numerous sources.

The dehumanizing words presently used in politics are leading to a never before experienced rise in hate crimes. Murders like the one of the Pittsburgh Eleven, the two African-American in Kentucky, and “smaller” despicable acts in numerous shapes and sizes against women, LGBTQ, and other marginalized people are changing the shape and form of a free and accepting US-society.

In Germany it once began with small words and ideas uttered in back yards, at ordinary tables and in small groups. They infected others and spread hate like a deadly cancer in German society.

I sighed as my eyes fixated the candles. Never again. If the world is again on the path of a slippery slope, it will be our responsibility to hold against this trend as courageous as we are able to. As God commands us: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)


(1) NY Times

One comment

  1. Thank you for your historical analysis and biblical context: they help bridge the chasm of fear opened in the face of ignorance of the past.

    Like

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