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NEW YORK, N.Y.: November 9, 2022 — Today, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), in commemoration of Kristallnacht, announces the relaunch of their Holocaust survivor-led, digital campaign, #ItStartedWithWords. View the campaign on Facebook.
#ItStartedWithWords is a Holocaust education campaign featuring survivors from around the globe reflecting on the moments that led up to the Holocaust – a period when they could not have predicted the ease with which their neighbors, teachers, classmates and colleagues would turn on them, transitioning from words of hate to acts of violence.
Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference said, “Relaunching this campaign goes beyond commemorating Kristallnacht. With the growing prevalence of Holocaust denial, distortion and hate speech on social platforms and in communities across the country, the core message behind the #ItStartedWithWords campaign becomes even more important: the Holocaust did not start with camps, ghettos and deportations; it started with words of hate. The results from our 2020 U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, which found that 63 percent of Millennials and Gen Z did not know six million Jews were murdered, combined with the rise in antisemitism, underscores the need for Holocaust education.”
Kristallnacht exemplifies the evolution of words of hate to actions. In November 1938, a series of attacks against Jews living in Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland were coordinated and carried out by the SA paramilitary forces supported by local citizens, all while German officials turned a blind eye. In total, more than 260 synagogues were destroyed, 7,000 Jewish businesses were demolished or looted, and more than 30,000 Jews were rounded up, humiliated in the streets of their own towns, and arrested, ultimately ending up in concentration camps. Kristallnacht – literally the night of broken glass – was an action of unchecked hatred that evolved from the words and policies of hate that spread across the German Reich and became the preamble to the Holocaust.
Several notable Holocaust survivors recorded videos for the #ItStartedWithWords campaign, including Abe Foxman, born in Poland in 1940, now living in the U.S.; Yisrael Meir Lau, born in Poland in 1937, now living in Israel; Eva Schloss, born in Austria in 1929, now living in the United Kingdom; Colette Avital, born in 1940 in Bucharest, Romania, now living in Israel; Sidney Zoltak, born in Poland in 1931, now living in Canada; and Charlotte Knobloch, born in 1932 in Munich, Germany, where she still lives.
#ItStartedWithWords illustrates how racist and antisemitic speech led to actions that nearly saw the mass extermination of an entire people. To provide educational resources from partner museums and institutions, as well as the collection of the survivor videos from the campaign, the Claims Conference also maintains ItStartedWithWords.org, a website that serves as a resource for educators around the world.