Nearly a year after the New England Holocaust Memorial was vandalized in two incidents, the monument was rededicated Sunday in a ceremony that compared that violence with Kristallnacht — “the Night of Broken Glass” — when Nazis and their supporters smashed windows in Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues in Germany 80 years ago.
“Two stones, shattering not only two glass panels on the memorial, but also in an instant shattering our complacency as a community, our very sense of community and acceptance that, truth be told, we had come to take for granted,” Rick Mann, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston’s Holocaust Commemoration Committee said to about 300 who had gathered inside Faneuil Hall.
The Holocaust Memorial consists of six 54-foot-tall glass towers, each containing 22 glass panels etched with 17,280 numbers that echo the tattoos that Nazis gave to death camp inmates, according to the monument’s website.
Last June 28, 21-year-old James E. Isaac of Roxbury allegedly threw a large rock at the memorial, shattering a panel, police said. Then, on Aug. 14, a 17-year-old Malden boy allegedly threw a stone that shattered another panel.
Rabbi Alan Turetz, spiritual leader of Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill, decried not only the vandalism, but also the wider wave of anti-Semitic and racist incidents across the nation and the growth of right-wing political movements that have sought to minimize the Holocaust.
In these “fractured and perilous times,” said Turetz, people must stand up and bear witness in “a world alight with virulent hatred” about the killing of 6 million Jewish children, women, and men in the Holocaust.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh praised the strength of the Jewish community and that of Boston’s residents from all faiths and backgrounds.
“We talk a lot about resiliency these days in governments, but our deepest resilience is actually in our people,” he said. “Our city’s people have come from all parts of the earth. They and their ancestors have been through untold hardships. Their resilience is our city’s strength.”
Several speakers shared stories of family members lost and those who survived the genocide.
Janet Stein Calm, president of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors & Descendants of Greater Boston, said her father had survived to find himself utterly alone.
“No one that he knew before the war was alive after the war,” she said. “His entire family had been killed. Every child he went to school with and every person he had ever known were all gone.”
Speaker Esther Adler witnessed Kristallnacht and rising Nazism as she grew up in a Jewish family in the German city of Breslau, which is now within the borders of Poland.
She recalled going to bed as a girl on Nov. 9, 1938, and being awakened by a clamor.
“Suddenly, sounds of breaking glass pierced the silence of the night, followed by a chorus of shouting voices,” Adler said.
Her family rushed to their living room window to see “groups of men, some in uniform, others not, were raiding the shop windows of the large hardware store, whose owners were Jewish.”
She escaped Germany and lived in what is now Israel before coming to the United States. She taught for many years at a Hebrew school in New York, published a book of poems and a novel, and now lives in a Jewish retirement community in Canton.
In 2015, she returned to Breslau, now known as Wrocław, Poland, to film a documentary and to speak about the Holocaust with German and Polish teens who showed her that the next generation can learn from the past, she said.
“Their desire to learn from us, their struggle to accept the deeds of grandparents, of their grandparents’ generation, was evident,” she said. “These youngsters . . . give me hope for the future of mankind.”Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.