Throughout the former Soviet Union, a poignant tribute unfolded on the night of November 9-10, commemorating the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, an infamous chapter in history marked by anti-Semitic atrocities. Under the banner of the ‘Ignite Light’ initiative, dozens of synagogues illuminated the night, echoing the memory of the tragic events that unfolded eight and a half decades ago.
Special events, commemorating Kristallnacht took place far and wide, with ceremonies and prayer gatherings conducted in Siberian cities such as Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk alongside the capital of Moscow and the grand city of Petersburg. In Central and Western Ukraine, such as Kyiv, Belie Tzerkova and Chernivtsi. In the Baltics, such as Riga and Tallinn, and in remote countries such as Tbilisi in Georgia and Baku in Azerbaijan.
In the unique city of Kaliningrad, the New Kaliningrad Synagogue stood as a testament to both remembrance and revival. The synagogue, with its roots tied to the haunting events of Kristallnacht, hosted a series of events from November 7-9, including an international scientific conference titled “Source Studies of the History of the Holocaust.” Attended by educators, museum workers, and members of Jewish communities, the conference delved into historical sites linked to the Holocaust’s harrowing past.
Participants paid homage at poignant locations, such as the Northern Station of Kaliningrad, commemorating the deportation of Jews from Königsberg in 1942, and the former Japanese consulate, connected to the heroic actions of diplomat Chiune Sugihara, a beacon of righteousness during the Holocaust. Additionally, a solemn “Heavy Sand” memorial ceremony in Yantarny honored the victims of concentration camps in East Prussia.
The memorial events culminated in a moving gala evening at the synagogue on November 9. Chief Rabbi David Shvedik led the congregation in Kaddish, while heartfelt speeches resonated from community leaders and dignitaries, including German Consul General Hans Gunther Mattern and Michael Laizerowitz, head of the local Jewish Museum. The evening crescendoed with a concert by students from the Kaliningrad Music College, echoing themes of remembrance and resilience through the notes of S. Rachmaninov.
Beyond honoring the memory of Kristallnacht’s victims, these gatherings underscored the resilience of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, symbolizing not just remembrance, but the enduring spirit of freedom and religious revival.