Kristallnacht, Cataclysm. and Moral Distortion

Posted: November 9, 2011 in Because I love Judaism I can never be a pure rationalist, My moral code
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Today is the very sad anniversary of one of the most terrible pogroms against the Jews – Kristallnacht.

My intellectual master, Robert Nozick, has said: “The Holocaust is a massive cataclysm that distorts everything around it… a massive and continuing distortion of human space… It’s vortices and gnarled twistings will extend very far.”

After the Holocaust (and later 20th century atrocities) it seems to me a very distinct possibility that humans have no special, elevated, place among the animals. Reason is our distinguishing characteristic. But when even reason does not raise us above the murder of 2/3 of an entire segment of the European population, there is cause to question whether it makes us all that special as animals. Surely it makes us no more inherently moral than our opposable thumb. Perhaps had we heeded the warning of the moral emptiness of Kristallnacht. I’d have been proven wrong.

In memory of this horror and the subsequent even greater horror of the destruction of both humanity and morality I offer a line from a poem by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (The poem itself is not about Kristallnacht but, rather, about the 1933 Nazi book burning. The line is still àpropos.) :

On this, your blasphemous holy day, hatred is your sanctity.

Never again.


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