November 10, 2022. It’s a beautiful morning. The sun warms my skin as I’m drinking my cup of green tea; the trees are wearing their colorful autumn dresses; and a light wind is letting the leaves shimmer. But as I’m writing this, I cannot keep myself from thinking about the same day eighty-four years ago. How did the people back then look into this new day? How did they feel that morning as the sun was shining on their faces?
The night before, from the 9th to the 10th of November 1938, marked a turning point in history. It was the Kristallnacht – Crystal Night – during which the Nazis in Austria and Germany killed hundreds of Jews and destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses. This is also where the name comes from – the Night of Broken Glass. On the morning of this very day, the first deportations to the concentration camps started, where mass exterminations, killing of women, men and children, followed. It was the night when all of the discrimination of the previous years became actions, when the "work" done to "prepare" society, all of the propaganda so far, bringing about a shift in perception of the very nature of Jews, took over and "allowed" for the violence against them to happen in this way. Sometimes this night is also seen as the start of the Holocaust, as it smoothed the way for worse things to come.
I’m Austrian. I grew up with this history. In school, we were learning about the Second World War, what felt like every year. And although we know about all the horrors — we went for visits to the concentration camps, to exhibitions, watched movies and documentaries about Sophie Scholl or Schindler's list, read Anne Frank, and many more — often I got the feeling that as Austrians we are hiding behind Germany, making it seem as if we did not have a choice. As if there was no way we could have prevented the Nazis from entering Austria and become their ally.
This results now, from my point of view, in an inadequate accounting of the past because the process of coming to terms with it is just not happening. Or not enough. Austrians like to be victims. We like to not make choices of our own. We like to not be responsible. We like neutrality. It is part of our culture and part of our mentality. Rather to not do something than to do something wrong. But sometimes doing nothing is the worst one can do.
The remembrance of this night makes me wonder when there is the correct moment to act against something that is not right. When is the right time to stand up and fight for what you believe in? To not accept. To say no. Always is the right moment. Every time is the right time and we can always interfere. We shall take a stance, and we must speak up. Only then can we change the way Iran is treating its citizens, China its minorities or how nature is being exploited.