AUTHOR’S NOTE: On the night of November 9, 1938, the Nazis unleashed a wave of orchestrated attacks against Jews in Germany and Austria. In the space of a few hours, thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed. Nearly 100 Jews were beaten to death and 30,000 arrested and sent to concentration camps. This dark event came to be called Kristallnacht - the "Night of Broken Glass."

-
KRISTALLNACHT-
From adolescent dreams I wake,
 No hope for blessed sleep remains—
Embracing silence in the dark,
 I search for light past shuttered panes.

But no, my window is secure
 Against this chilly autumn night;
I now recall when Mutter came
 To stroke my brow and lock it tight.

Where is the drone of Vater's voice
 Recounting speeches word for word?
Instead, my mutter's gentle sobs
 Intone her sorrows yet incurred.

I risk a peek despite her plea
 To stay in bed once I retire;
Two chairs sit empty, poised between
 The radio and raging fire.

But as I ponder this, it comes—
 A vengeful thunder in the street;
A pounding like ten thousand drums
 On cobblestones by marching feet.

I seek the solace of my bed
 And pull the bedclothes o'er my eyes,
But angry shouting fills my head
 Amid foul shrieks and pleading cries.

The crash of glass is all around—
 From where it comes, I cannot tell;
A wail of sirens soon surround
 And join a chorus born of hell.

No longer can I listen blind;
 I must know what unfolds outside!
With trepidation, I unwind
 The tepid sheets in which I hide.

As I undo the shutter's latch,
 A raging glow seeps through the chinks;
I open wide perdition's hatch
 And look beyond...

   ...My spirit sinks.

Outside, the world erupts in rage
 As zealous men and boys my age
Pursue their vengeance to and fro—
 A few are strangers. Most I know.

I hear them crunching down the street
 On crystal carpets at their feet;
Their hate continues to amass
 The shattered lives among the glass.

As men are dragged into the night,
 Their screams invoke perverse delight;
Not one is spared or dares resist
 The blows from rods or doubled fist.

A few who watch the cruel reprise
 Betray compassion in their eyes,
But fearing those who may deride,
 They pass by on the other side.

I watch the swath of carnage spread
 Beyond the living to the dead
As graves found worthy of disdain
 Are stripped of peace in death's domain.

Behind, a raging chaos churns—
 A foreign house of worship burns
Adorned with scrolls unfurled in haste
 Of old commandments once embraced.

The flames ascend as minutes pass,
 Their glow igniting shards of glass—
This morbid beauty pleased my eye
 Like stars unnumbered in the sky.

Then just outside my vision's reach,
 A Voice of Reason starts to preach
And quotes a treatise, cold and stark,
 Espousing doctrines in the dark.

His words go spinning through my head,
 My conscience balks with icy dread...
Which voice will earn my trust again—
 My childlike faith or tongues of men?

No longer can I bear the sight
 Of fates unfolding in the night;
I flee the room in which I sleep,
 Collapse in pain...

   ...And then I weep.

As daylight stirs my weary mind,
 I hear the rattle of the door;
It is my Vater, out all night,
 Who treads the shadows on the floor.

He sighs and sinks into his chair
 As if enduring tortured loss;
He pulls an armband from his coat
 Emblazoned with a twisted cross.

A floorboard creaks, he spins around
 And spots me in the light of day;
He trembles at my anxious gaze,
 Then drops his eyes...

   ...And looks away.