MAITLAND, Fla. — The violence happening during the ongoing war in the Middle East has some Central Floridians remembering another dark time in history.
Dozens of people gathered at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida in Maitland on Wednesday night for an annual commemoration of some events that decades ago led up to the Holocaust.
Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass, happened on Nov. 9 and 10 in 1938, and is remembered as a major escalation in the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany that eventually led to the Holocaust.
At the commemoration, the founder and director of the Dangerous Speech Project spoke about how a gradual escalation in antisemitic speech helped lead to violence then and is a major lesson now of what hateful language can lead to if gone unchecked.
“It is striking how quickly people can be turned against another group of people,” said Susan Benesch. “It’s not normal, it’s not natural. No child has ever been born hating or fearing another group of people — and yet it can happen quite quickly.”
As the commemoration went on, Orange County leaders were handing out checks at another Central Florida location to 40 arts, cultural and tourism organizations — including a check for $160,000 to the Holocaust center.
The money will go to help pay for speakers at events like Wednesday's commemoration. The check distribution was part of the county's first ACT (Arts, Culture and Tourism) Awards. The funds came from the Tourist Development Tax, which is collected by Orange County on stays at hotels and other short-term rentals.
“I really love the interaction that comes from humans expressing human thoughts and experiences through the arts,” said Terry Olson, director of Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs.
A spokesperson for the Holocaust center said the commemoration event about dangerous speech shows the importance of what they do, and what’s planned at the Holocaust museum that’s slated to be built in downtown Orlando. Plans for that project are ongoing.