Scots minister recorded horror of attack on Jews
Church reveals dossier containing accounts of pre-war pogrom
It was one of the most shocking outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence in the build-up to the Second World War. Now the Church of Scotland has revealed how one of its ministers compiled a dossier, exposing the “depths of human misery” inflicted on Jewish people, during the German pogrom 80 years ago today.
The work has “truthful observations and trustworthy accounts by eyewitnesses” to the impact of Kristallnacht, a frenzy of Nazi-orchestrated violence on November 9 and 10 1938.
The name, which translates as Night of Broken Glass, refers to the smashed windows of Jewish homes, businesses, hospitals, schools and synagogues that were ransacked in Germany, Austria and elsewhere.
The typed document was compiled two months after the event by Rev Donald William Mackay, who was minister of the Scots International Church in Rotterdam from 1934 to 1940.
Kept in the World Mission Council archive at the Church of Scotland offices in Edinburgh, it has been made public for the first time.
Inside are details of the scale of assaults carried out on the Jewish community and the preface states: “What really did happen is worse by far than anything described in these pages”.
Rev Ian Alexander, CoS secretary to the World Mission Council, said: “It is extraordinary to unearth a document that shares first-hand knowledge and experience from people living through these desperate events. It lays bare the depths of human misery.
“As we live through days when different faith groups are targeted, and those seeking asylum are increasingly demonised, it is a salutary lesson of the need to stand alongside those being persecuted.”
Mirella Yandoli, the church’s interfaith programme officer, said it remained essential to tackle the blight of anti-Semitism.
“This archive is a timely reminder, both of what happened 80 years ago and also the responsibility of the church to act and draw attention to this hatred then and now,” she said.
“We need to take this anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on how easy it is to fall into the position of bystander and do nothing but lament.
“I view it as the church’s responsibility to examine and challenge anti-Semitism and prejudice in our own organisation and continue to look at how we can call it out in the public sphere.
“Collaborating with other faiths and Interfaith Scotland on the topic of hate speech and crime in the youth or parish setting, has become a key priority.
“The most important thing is to listen to those affected first before we decide how we can be an ally.”