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Remember Kristallnacht, fight fascism, embrace hope and violins

On the anniversary of Kristallnacht, it’s time to look back 80 years and ask: who makes the Nazis? Then look forward with hope and music.

By Mark Cubey

Smashed windows of a Jewish business in Germany after Kristallnacht, 1938

In case you were wondering, it’s fine after the events of the last 12 months to call out the “far right”, the “alt-right”, the “anti-globalists” and anyone else who uses racism, sexism, street violence and murder for exactly what they are: fascists.

These people don’t care about democracy, unless it delivers them the reins of power. After which they eliminate it. To take total control, over you.

The world’s fourth largest democracy, Brazil, just elected Jair Bolsonaro as president. He wants to bring back a military dictatorship, supports the use of torture against criminals, made openly racist, homophobic and misogynist statements, called refugees “the scum of the earth”, and has pledged a “cleansing never before seen in Brazil” for “red thieves” (his opponents) who would be “banned from the country”.

Bolsonaro takes a lot of cues from Rodrigo Duerte, president of former US client state the Philippines (“I will admit it, I am a Fascist”), and also of course from the orange-wigged multiple bankrupt and inveterate liar Donald Trump, whose rallies have been raising the bar of hate and fear as the US enters an election that could decide the future of global democracy.

Today, the United States goes to the polls for midterm elections, voting for governors and other state officials, plus representatives in Congress, with all 435 seats at stake in the House of Representatives, 33 seats, mainly held by Democrats being voted in for the upper house of the Senate.

Early voting is already at record levels, but in a skewed system that disproportionately favours Republicans, with candidates for governor like Georgia’s Brian Kemp who sees no problem in also being the election official that is eliminating black voters from the electoral roll…well, we will see what happens from midday today, and whether a Democratic blue tide can overwhelm the MAGA red wall to wash through the corrupt halls of power and cleanse the system.

But even if the Democrats take both houses, that won’t stop Trump ramping up the lies, the hate, the incitements. There is no doubt that his stochastic terrorism – the use of mass public communication to malign individuals or groups – was instrumental in provoking the anti-Semitic gun attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, the racist attack on a black community, an assault on a yoga school, and the bombs sent to the homes or offices of many Trump opponents.

We have seen this kind of thing before.

Burning synagogue, Kristallnacht 1938

This year’s Kristallnacht concert in Wellington is being held in memory of the Nazi attack on the Jews of Germany on 9 November 1938, and has Hope as its underlying theme.

It will be a sobering reminder of what can happen when a autocratic demagogue influences a susceptible populace to act violently.

Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, was part of Reichspogromnacht, a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9 and 10 November 1938, carried out by Hitler’s paramilitary Stormtrooper forces and German civilians. Windows were smashed; synagogues burnt down.

It was a defining moment for Germany, a tipping point to full-on fascism, and regardless of the electoral result in the USA today, do not think it can’t happen there. It can happen anywhere. But we are not powerless to resist and remember.

In an uplifting response to historical terror, young Israeli violinist Tal First and Inbal Megiddo of the NZ School of Music will perform Violins of Hope by Israeli composer Ohad ben Ari in its New Zealand premiere tomorrow as part of a varied programme of classical and jazz works.

Kristallnacht – Concert of Hope,  dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust, the casualties of war. and to Denis Adam CNZM, OBE (1924 – 2018), takes place at the Renouf Foyer, Michael Fowler Centre, from 7.00pm.

Tal Friend, who will perform Violins of Hope at the MFC on Thursday 9 November. Photo by Ilan Spira

Versatile chamber musician Tal First, 23, is currently studying at the Julliard School performing arts conservatory in New York. He is a member of the West-Eastern Divan, conducted by Daniel Barenboim who founded the orchestra in 1999 with Edward Said as a workshop for Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians, and has also served as concertmaster of the Young Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Violins of Hope is a collection of violins collected and restored by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein. The violins were played in European ghettos and concentration camps, or belonged to victims of the Holocaust. When these violins were exhibited in Berlin, the celebrated Israeli pianist, conductor and composer Ohad Ben-Ari was commissioned to write a work for violin, cello and string orchestra that was performed by members of the Berlin Philharmonic at a special memorial concert.

As well as Violins of Hope, the concert features works by the Dutch Jewish composer Dick Kattenburg who died in Auschwitz at the age of 24, and two movements from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, a work he composed while in a prisoner of war camp.

The programme also includes Mahler’s early Piano Quartet, and two songs by Kurt Weill.

Student tickets for the concert are now just $35.00.

Book these and other tickets for the concert at Renouf Foyer here.