Nov. 9, 2012
Seventy-four years ago, The Catholic University of America hosted a nationwide radio broadcast denouncing Kristallnacht , or "the night of broken glass," which was the start of the Nazi pogrom against the Jews of Germany on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938.
On Wednesday, Nov. 14, the University will host "Remembering Kristallnacht ," which will include a historical presentation on the broadcast by Maria Mazzenga, education archivist, and a recorded composition inspired by the broadcast written by Joseph A. Santo, composer and assistant dean of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. The event, sponsored by the University Libraries, will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the May Gallery of the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library.
In 2007, Mazzenga was part of the University archives staff that analyzed the contents of a record that had been brought to the archives from Nugent Hall, the President's residence. The staff learned that Nov. 16, 1938, broadcast, aired on CBS and NBC, featured members of the Catholic hierarchy and clergy - including those associated with Catholic University - and laity from around the country denouncing the actions of the Nazis.
The contents of the broadcast, aired a year before Germany's invasion of Poland sparked World War II, came as somewhat of a surprise to Mazzenga, who has researched American perceptions and reactions to World War II.
"That there was an organized and positive American Catholic response to the Kristallnacht pogrom has been forgotten over time," explains Mazzenga. "What has lived in historical memory has been the anti-Semitic tirades of Father Charles Coughlin, the Detroit priest who in fact condoned the Nazi actions against German Jews.
"So when we unearthed this broadcast in our archive several years ago and found this American Catholic condemnation of Nazi violence against Jews in 1938, it came as a surprise. Now we know that while Coughlin's anti-Semitism existed and flourished in the 1930s, there was also another group of Catholics, including several members of the Catholic hierarchy, who found the actions of the Nazis toward the Jews reprehensible and stated it publicly."
Santo's composition, titled "Malachey Elyon," uses several texts from the actual broadcast. Under the direction of David Searle, conductor and assistant professor of music, the work was premiered in 2010 on campus by the CUA Symphony Orchestra and a chorus composed of faculty and students of the music school.
The broadcast was the subject of an article in the fall 2007 issue of CUA Magazine . To read the article, visit http://publicaffairs.cua.edu//cuamag/fall07/features/record.html .
Refreshments will be served after the presentations. For more information, contact Mazzenga at 202-319-5065.