In 2009, I was invited by Georg and Wilma Iggers to participate in a Kristallnacht commemoration in
Gottingen, Germany. Georg, who died in 2018, originally from Hamburg, Germany, had narrowly
escaped calamity, attaining visas to the US just a few weeks prior to what he always insisted being called
“The Pogrom” (while glass was shattered on that night, the given name glosses over the full extent of
the atrocities). Wilma, whose family was from Czechoslovakia, came to the US in a similar time frame.
She is nearing a hundred and still going strong at Canterbury Woods.
The event was organized by the University students and took place by the former synagogue, one the
Nazis had burned 71 years prior. The 150 Jewish residents of the town subsequently deported and
murdered. A beautiful memorial had been built in the shape of a Jewish star. I stood that night listening
to speeches given in German, and while I did not understand the words, I felt the emotions and at the
conclusion, sang the famous words of Hannah Szenes: “Oh Lord, My God, I pray that these things never
end, the sand and the sea, the rush of the waters, the crash of the heavens, the prayer of the heart.”
In Germany, the memorials continued for nine weeks after that day, to January 27 th , the International
Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz, and the beginning of the end of the
Nazi atrocities. This week we marked the 75 th anniversary of that event, as leaders from around the
world gathered in Israel to remember that heart breaking period of human history.
How fitting it is that this is the week we read in the Torah from Parashat Bo, the section of the Torah
where the plagues reach their climax and our people can finally see the end of their hundreds of years of
persecution. While we cannot look directly into our ancestor’s faces, we can imagine the euphoria they
felt as they, for the first time in their lifetimes, felt hope.
Unfortunately, the struggle to end oppression did not end in the crossing of the sea, just like it did not
end with the liberation of Auschwitz. As the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier,
announced at the largest political gathering in Israel’s history, “Our age is a different age, the words are
not the same, the perpetrators are not the same perpetrators but it is the same evil, and there remains
only one answer: Never again.”
The Iggers found this out the hard way when they arrived in the South and encountered the struggle of
the African American community. Indeed, they had gone from laws Nuremberg to Jim Crow, an irony
that was not missed upon them. They proceeded to help desegregate the libraries and school system in
Little Rock, Arkansas where they made a home early on in their married life. Georg continued to fight
for freedom throughout the rest of his life.
How fitting that this Shabbat also marks the beginning Black History Month. In memory of Georg and in
memory of all those who suffer from atrocities all the world over, let us join hands and march toward