Aired Nov. 16, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/uoM7W0ecZKg
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of November 17th, 2013.
I’m not exactly a spa kind of guy. Relaxation frightens me, and if you’re gonna put me on a massage table, you better have huge boobs and a latex glove because I ain’t leaving without my money’s worth. If I were the spa type, however, one place I would hesitate to visit is the Crystal Sauna Wellness Park in Thuringia, Germany. By all accounts, it’s a lovely place: gourmet food, heated pool, sauna, live entertainment, cozy rooms. They really should promote the place more.
Or maybe they shouldn’t. An advertising agency came up with a print ad for Crystal Park that went on the spa’s website. The copywriter wanted to marry the theme of romance and relaxation with the name of the venue. Something that said, “spend a memorable evening here at the Crystal Spa.” However, those were not the words they used. Instead they said – and I’m not making this up – quote, “Enjoy the evening hours in candlelight and relax, in a long, romantic Kristall-Nacht.”
You’d think a German would know that putting the words “Kristall” and “nacht” together is the opposite of romantic. It’s like a cruise ship promoting itself by saying, “Come with us on a journey of titanic proportions!”
An employee of the spa said the advertisement was, quote, “a misunderstanding,” one that stemmed from the park’s name, Crystal. It certainly had nothing to do with the beginnings of the Holocaust. But all we can wonder is how a German ad exec could not know that November 9th, 1938 was the beginning of Hitler’s final solution. That was the night of the broken glass – “crystal night” – when German-Jewish store owners were beaten, their windows smashed, ethnic slurs painted on their bricks – the first wave of the Holocaust. Most importantly, it proved to the Nazi regime that they could get away with state-sanctioned brutality without anyone trying to stop it.
It’s like when the first West Coast rapper said, “Hey, the album is a little short. Maybe I’ll do a duet with someone else on the label. How bad could it be?” He tries it, and two years later, every other song on a rap CD has a guest appearance. Yes, the scale of the tragedy is different, but the principle is the same.
Even as we move into the 21st century, 80 years and three generations since the Nazis took power, Germany remains a prickly pear. Grandchildren carry the moral burden for something completely alien to them, and yet some of those guilty grandparents still walk the earth. It’s illegal to be a white supremacist there, or to own or display Nazi memorabilia or even give the “Heil Hitler” salute. Which is probably as it should be. There are silly aspects to the censorship, but consider this: in 1945, the world would have had every right to set off 25 atom bombs over Germany. So even allowing that country to survive – not to mention letting them reunite – is an act of mercy for which they should be abundantly grateful.
Sure, the Holocaust is taught over there, relentlessly, I hear. So there are people who say, “it’s enough. The country can’t move forward if you grind everyone’s soul into the past.” But the reply to that is, well, this Park-Spa ad. Some product of the German school system, who went into advertising, didn’t hear the alarm bell go off in his head. He saw “Kristall,” he thought of “nacht,” and he had no compunction about slamming them together. This is why there can never be too much Holocaust education – especially over there. And the same goes for any act of savagery that we never want to see again.
I would hate to think that 60 years from now, in Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Syria, there’d be a commercial on TV going, “Come to Achlabad for your bedding needs. On-sale now, our heavenly mattress and box spring – twin towers of comfort.”
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to a blooper reel.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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