“Night of Broken Glass” Program Presented by Saint Leo University Draws Crowd to the Abbey Church

November 14, 2013

Many Americans don’t know enough about “The Night of Broken Glass.” On the night of November 9, 1938, German Nazis destroyed Jewish houses of worship, businesses, and homes. The violence continued into November 10 and, in some places, for several more days. Rioters killed at least 100 Jews, ransacked and looted some 75,000 Jewish businesses, along with Jewish hospitals, schools, homes, and cemeteries and sent 30,000 Jewish men to Nazi concentration camps. That event marked the beginning of the Holocaust.

A program organized and held this week by the Saint Leo University Center for Jewish-Catholic Studies helped fill the educational void about this historic turning point. In introducing the program Dr. Abraham Peck, executive director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, said: “This event was the first tangible effort of the Nazis to test the world against a mass act of physical and institutional violence upon the community that the Nazis would ultimately seek to destroy. This program examines the German Catholic Church’s response to the events of November 9 and 10, 1938.”

The featured speaker, Professor Kevin Spicer, C.S.C., James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History at Stonehill College, Easton, MA, presented “Catholic Martyrs ‘Brown Priests’ and Jewish Victims: Remembering the 75th Anniversary of “The Night of Broken Glass.”

Professor Spicer captivated the audience, as did the invited panelists, two German Jews who were still living in Germany in 1938. Otto Weitzenkorn, Saint Leo University trustee emeritus, and Tampa resident Edith Sanders shared moving testimonials of that fateful night and their remembrances of the Nazi regime. “The whole world changed all of a sudden and we grew up fast,” said Mrs. Sanders.

Etched in Mr. Weitzenkorn’s memory is the horror he viewed from his third-floor bedroom window. He was then only nine years old, and when he looked out, he saw flames shooting out from his local synagogue. Equally powerful, he vividly recalls a year later entering New York harbor at night aboard the USS Manhattan, and seeing the Statue of Liberty. “I saw the light shining in the dark and I will never forget that sight. It’s a wonderful country and don’t let it (The Holocaust) happen again.”

A crowd of about 150 people listened attentively to their stories Tuesday, November 12, in the Saint Leo Abbey Church.

The program was sponsored by Saint Leo, the Saint Leo University Center for Jewish-Catholic Studies, the Florida Holocaust Museum, The Jewish Federation, the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation, the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, Saint Leo University Ministry, the Saint Leo University Department of Religion, Theology, and Philosophy, and the Saint Leo University Criminal Justice Department/Professor Leonard Territo.