Holocaust survivor Eve Kugler has told her story throughout the world for decades, but when she told her story on Wednesday, she was especially moved. It was the first time that Kugler, 91, recounted in an Arab country the events of Kristallnacht that she had witnessed as a little girl.
Kugler came to Dubai as part of a series of simultaneous interfaith events under the “Let There Be Light” campaign organized by the International March of the Living, marking the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
On the night of November 9, 1938, a pogrom against Jews and their property was carried out throughout the Third Reich, Germany and Austria.
“Kristallnacht is an event from which we must shine a light against religion-oriented hate crimes and antisemitism. This is the third year that we have held events to mark Kristallnacht. We held simultaneous commemorative events in Jerusalem, Vienna and Dubai.”Revital Yakin-Krakovsky
“Kristallnacht is an event from which we must shine a light against religion-oriented hate crimes and antisemitism. This is the third year that we have held events to mark Kristallnacht. We held simultaneous commemorative events in Jerusalem, Vienna and Dubai,” says Revital Yakin-Krakovsky, deputy CEO of the International March of the Living.
“The event in Dubai was intended to engender and encourage Holocaust education among Muslims in countries that have joined the Abraham Accords. It was conducted in partnership with the Neishlos Foundation, the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, the Movement Against Anti-Semitism (CAM), Meta, the Jewish Community of Austria, and the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience.”
“Kristallnacht,” she adds, “was the final stop sign before the outbreak of the Holocaust. The world did not listen or pay attention to the attacks on Jews, their synagogues and their property.
“The goal of our campaign, which began three years ago, is to not only remind us of what happened, but also to speak out against hate crimes that are happening today, whether they are attacks on synagogues, churches or mosques. All religions must be united against hate crimes wherever they may occur.
“At the main ceremony of the March of the Living held on Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the torch of hope was jointly lit by Dr. Ahmed Obaid AlMansoori, founder of the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, and entrepreneur and philanthropist Eitan Neishlos, president and founder of the Neishlos Foundation, a third-generation Holocaust survivor and the founder of the first branch of the March of the Living in the Gulf states. We have now held the first event of the March of the Living in the UAE.”
Kugler, who today lives in London, was born in Halle, Germany. Her family was separated during the Holocaust and was reunited only after the war.
I joined Kugler during her emotional day in Dubai. The first stop was the Jewish Educational Center in Dubai, headed by Rabbi Levi Duchman, the rabbi of the United Arab Emirates. Both Jewish and Muslim students were present at the meeting with Kugler.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the children. Do the Muslim youth know anything about the Holocaust?” she asked Duchman just before the meeting began.
“I didn’t tell them anything,” he replied. “I wanted you to tell the story so that it would be authentic.”
A picture of Kugler’s pre-Holocaust family – two happy parents and three daughters – appears on the screen in the room.
“I am delighted to be here with Jewish and Muslim children. We are all making history here,” said Kugler, explaining what happened on Kristallnacht, sharing her memories of that night, and describing her family’s experiences during the Holocaust and how, despite all odds, they eventually survived.
“Even today, we see signs of antisemitism, and attacks on synagogues,” she told the students. “We need to love each other, so that the events that occurred in the Holocaust will never happen again.”
“What message would you like to convey today to every child?” one of the students asked her.
“You, teenagers of different religions, need to learn what happened to the Jewish people,” she replied. “We are all human beings, and we must get to know other people and respect them. Just as you listened to me, please share the story with your family and friends, and what you learned from my story.”
“It was interesting to hear about the history and about what happened. I’ve never heard of the Holocaust,” said Marwan, 17, a Muslim student at Dubai International School, who attended the meeting. “Before this meeting, we hadn’t heard the word ‘Holocaust.’ I was interested to hear what Eve said.”
“Perhaps I’ll tell my friends what I heard,” added Zaid, another student.
After her session with the students, Kugler continued to the main ceremony, held at the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, which was attended by over 100 people, including local residents, Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek, diplomatic representatives, chairman of the International March of the Living Organization Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, and members of the organization’s board of directors. Kugler went on stage and moved everyone by telling her story.
Traveling from London to Dubai was difficult for Kugler, but she insisted on coming and making her voice heard.
Why was it so important for you to come to the UAE?
“As I told the students and the audience at the ceremony,” says Kugler, “I was seven years old at the time, but I still remember everything. I remember the loud banging and the violent entry of the SS soldiers into our home. I remember how they ripped the pages of the Talmud that belonged to my grandfather. I remember them taking my father and grandfather away. I remember the noise of the glass shattering from father’s store, and I remember looking out the window and seeing the synagogue my grandfather had founded in flames.
“It’s important to me that they know, and it’s important to me that they remember. I was very moved to come to Dubai and tell my story.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony at the museum, six torches were lit in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
“This event made the Holocaust accessible to Muslims from the Emirates, and for the first, and perhaps the last, time, the audience heard a firsthand description of Kristallnacht and the greatest tragedy in humanity, the Holocaust of the Jewish people,” said Yakin-Krakovsky.
“The primary importance of this event is the need to share information about the Holocaust with people, with residents of the area and with people from different nations and cultures,” says AlMansoori. “It is important to share the information about what happened on Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, both with adults and children. It is very important to learn from the experience of the survivors, and we are grateful that Eve came to Dubai to talk about it.”
Do you feel that the subject of the Holocaust is of interest to the residents of the Emirates?
“We see great importance in sharing the facts and information about the Holocaust with people in the region,” says AlMansoori. “Since we opened this unique exhibition commemorating the Holocaust last year, there has been a great deal of interest in the subject. The best way is to reach out to Holocaust survivors and hear their stories. In the Arab and Muslim world, this opens their eyes to the Holocaust. The saying that ‘anyone who saves one life is as if he saved a whole world’ is also very instructive, from our point of view. We are seeing that people from the region are very interested in learning about the subject. We need to present the issue in the right way. In our opinion, this is through the stories of the survivors and the emphasis on the human aspect of the Holocaust.
“I am honored that this event took place at the museum. The purpose of the museum is not only to hold exhibitions – it also has an educational function. That was the main purpose of the event. The lessons from the tragedy that befell the Jewish people by the Nazis must be understood by the entire world.”
“I’m very moved. It’s wonderful to organize an event such as this, that has a historical and cultural aspect in Dubai,” notes Neishlos.
“All the leaders in the region, both in Israel and in the Muslim world, need to understand that they must cooperate, both economically and socially, for the sake of the future of us all.
“There is a long and rich history of the Jews in Muslim countries, and this event provided us with another opportunity to work together for the future and for peace.”
Translated by Alan Rosenbaum.•