Message from the Project Director, Jordan Stanger-Ross

This year I’ve been invited to give the keynote address for the Kristallnacht commemoration in Victoria, when my own Jewish community, and others across the world, remember the terror of November 9-10, 1938, when Jews in Nazi Germany were attacked and close to 100 people murdered. The name Kristallnacht, which translates to “night of crystal”, invokes the broken glass of property destroyed in the rioting. Holocaust scholar Michael Rothberg urges that histories of state violence be remembered together. Rothberg thinks that our collective memory is transformed when—rather than each of us holding our own history of our own community—we instead share, recognizing connections across time and place and embracing comparison without competition. I’ve slowly felt such a transformation in recent years. Preparing my reflections for Kristallnacht, I’ve realized that for decades I avoided thinking too deeply, or too often, about the Holocaust. I felt saturated with that history and uncertain of what to do with it. Recently—with the support and company of this Research Collective- I’ve not become a Holocaust scholar but I have delved deeply into the history of 20th century racism, the complexity of state violence, and the bravery of everyday people confronting forces beyond their control. This process has not yielded for me neat conclusions about the Holocaust, nor indeed about the internment era in Canada. My reflections for Kristallnacht will be more in the spirit of searching than of having found a conclusion. But I’ve become convinced, along with Rothberg, that these histories are multidirectional, that the lines between history and identity are not straight, but curving and complexly interwoven. As I prepare for this Jewish commemorative event, I’m thankful to the Research Collective for the opportunity to see history in a new light.

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