Holocaust Center marks Kristallnacht with two educational programs
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KristallnachtBoth programs are scheduled for Nov. 9

Holocaust Center marks Kristallnacht with two educational programs

“An Evening with Roger Guenveur Smith" includes a recorded screening of his play "Otto Frank" followed by a live talkback.

Shop damage on Kristallnacht in Magdeburg. Germany
(Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1970-083-42 / creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons)
Shop damage on Kristallnacht in Magdeburg. Germany (Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1970-083-42 / creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass — a November 1938 pogrom that began state-sanctioned violence against Jews in Nazi Germany — with two different programs this year.

At noon on Nov. 9, the Holocaust Center will host a Zoom lecture with Richard Weisberg, visiting law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, titled “The Nazis and the Law.” Weisberg “will discuss how Nazis worked within the framework of a legal system and the dangerous, incremental ways that they were able to carry out the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust,” according to the center.

The program will be recorded and made publicly available on the Holocaust Center’s YouTube channel.

The second program, titled “An Evening with Roger Guenveur Smith,” will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Chatham University. During the event, Smith, an acclaimed actor, writer and director — who may be best known for his films with Spike Lee, such as “Do The Right Thing” and “Malcolm X” — will show a recorded screening of his play, “Otto Frank,” followed by a live talkback. The one-man show was performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco in March.

In “Otto Frank,” Smith takes on the persona of the father of Anne Frank, “as he weaves through time, navigating loss, his motivations as steward and creator of her legacy, and the terrible sense of tragedy in his time and our own,” Magic Theatre Artistic Director Sean San José told Broadway World.

The Holocaust Center’s program is free and open to the public; it will not be available for online viewing. Registration is required.

“At the Holocaust Center, we believe the history of the Holocaust is connected to today — and I think that’s what Roger’s work does,” said Lauren Bairnsfather, the center’s executive director. “It’s a little bit edgy, but I want people to think. We need to know that our knowledge about [the Holocaust] is relevant now, to think that it could happen again and ask how are we going to make sure it doesn’t.”

Smith, for his part, also sees parallels between Holocaust-era Nazi Germany and the world today.

“Here in Los Angeles, we lament the sentiment of at least four public servants who were recorded last year during what was presumed to be a private conversation. Their chat was released online last week and included disturbing commentary which was, by turns, racist, colorist, homophobic and antisemitic,” Smith told the Chronicle.

“Though unsurprising in a moment where even pop stars have weighed in with a particularly inhumane vehemence, the equal-opportunity bigotry expressed — and unopposed — continues to resonate in a pre-electoral, post-Dodgers L.A.,” he added. “Thirty years ago, speaking to a shattered city, the late Rodney King suggested that we all ‘get along’ and extinguish the fires and sweep up the broken glass. These tasks remain undone in Los Angeles and the world at large.”

Registration information for both Kristallnacht programs can be found at hcofpgh.org. PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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