So Sorry

When news broke about the United States wireless-tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, the German Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson to read him the riot act.

This was an intolerable violation of trust and decency.

U.S. President Obama apologized and promised not to do it anymore.

Perhaps someone in Germany should have been listening in when a German hotel — the Kristall Sauna Wellnesspark in Bad Klosterlausnitz, Thüringen — planned its oh-so-clever ad for an exciting weekend getaway. The ad on its website featured some clever wordplay on the name of the spa. What could be better than the 75th anniversary of an historic event: Kristallnacht!

Of course, this violation of decency didn’t generate any outrage in Berlin. If not for social media spreading the story, we may not have even heard about it. It was just some local silly mistake.

On November 9–10, 1938, Kristallnacht (Crystal Night — the Night of Broken Glass), German authorities stood by and local citizens shrugged their shoulders as the mobs rioted. Just some thugs letting off steam…. In that riot, though, hundreds of shuls were burned, thousands of Jewish businesses were ransacked and destroyed; 91 Jews were killed and 30,000 Jews were arrested.

Seventy-five years later, the name has lost its power to evoke outrage among the German populace. Oddly enough, Germany may be the only country in the world where Holocaust denial is a crime. Holocaust cluelessness, however, is not a crime. For the truly clueless owners of the Kristall Sauna Wellnesspark, all that remains of Kristallnacht is the name. And since it sounded like their name, they figured, what a great tie-in!

No official from the hotel was called in. But, like Mr. Obama, they did issue a fulsome apology for their “insensitive naming of this event,” which they called “extremely inappropriate. We are extraordinarily regretful and of course this was unintentional; believe us, we are quite ashamed about our mistake.”

Believe them, they didn’t mean it.

I am reminded of a popular song from the 1940s. The chorus line went:

I didn’t know the gun was loaded

And I’m so sorry my friend

I didn’t know the gun was loaded

And I’ll never, ever do it again…