The 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass" was this year - just last week. The night of November 9th, continuing in to November 10th, 1938, Nazis throughout Germany incited an anti-Semitic uprising and terrorized Jews and torched synagogues, Jewish-owned business, and schools. Police and firefighters were ordered to do nothing but stand by and watch. Approximately 100 Jewish people were killed, but the death toll is not accurate and is possibly an underestimation. Over 260 synagogues were destroyed. In the wake of this the Nazi government blamed Jews for the destruction. They fined Jews $400 million (1938 rates) and over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
This wasn't the beginning, and it certainly wasn't the end of the troubles for Jewish people in Nazi-held areas of Europe. I will focus even more on this with another piece, but I do have to add: before World War II it was estimated that over 9 million Jewish people lived in Europe. By the end it was barely over 2 million - some had fled, some had survived, but approximately 6 million Jewish people were killed by Nazis. Approximately 2/3 of all Jewish people in Europe were killed. That's the same thing as taking the entire population of Virginia and Washington D.C. right now and killing 2/3 of them. I live in VA with my wife and child. My in-laws live in the same city I do, as does my father. We have extended family and friends throughout the state. Two-thirds would be a lot of my most dearest. You can use so many numbers here: 2/3 of the population of the London metro area, gone. Two-thirds of the population of the metro areas of both Philadelphia and Boston put together, gone.
And Nazis still walk among us. Make no mistake. Anti-Semitism is alive and well. Just ask the whole city of Pittsburgh.
For me, this piece is a meditation, a contemplation. A pause to remember. Each one of the lines on this page represents approximately 24 Jewish men arrested in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. It helped me to conceptualize 30,000 people in this way. One thousand two hundred fifty marks seemed like so many, but even more so when each one represented 24 people. Twenty four people is approximately one American primary school classroom... Now imagine 1250 of those classrooms. When looking at the total number consider that 30,000 is the approximate number of verses in the Bible - a hefty tome. Thirty thousand, ironically, is also the number of refugees the United States will allow in for 2019.
All lines are in watercolor with a mix of Winsor and Newton Indigo and French Ultramarine. I was attempting to recreate tekhelet, the sacred shade of blue dye used by Jewish people in the Old Testament. Tekhelet is made from the sea snail Murex trunculus and the dye color can vary from this blue to a more blue-violet based on UV exposure. Tallit - Jewish prayer shawls - were commanded by the Torah to have one string dyed blue with tekhelet.
This piece is painted on 6x8" cold press, 300gsm, 100% cotton watercolor paper.
Read more about Kristallnacht here:
I got my numbers about the Holocaust partially from here, but all sources match these numbers:
Read more about tekhelet and the symbolism of the color blue here: