Germany, 1938, more than 1,000 synagogues are burned, 30,000 Jews arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps

I have received an email from Jack De Lowe from Raanana, Israel, whose mother has written a moving story on how she experienced Kristallnacht, in November of 1938, exactly 64 years ago.

Kristallnacht, or the "Night of the Broken Glass", is described as follows:

On the nights of November 9 and 10 1938, rampaging mobs throughout Germany and the newly acquired territories of Austria and Sudetenland freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes and at their places of work and worship. At least 96 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured, more than 1,000 synagogues were burned (and possibly as many as 2,000), almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, cemeteries and schools were vandalized, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

During the November pogroms, stormtroopers smashed Jewish store windows, destroyed goods, and carried out massive looting. German officials calculated that 7,500 enterprises were damaged or destroyed in the rampages.

The Nazis forced the Jews to pay the costs of the pogroms and banned them from gainful economic activity. Insurance monies to cover the damages were confiscated, Jewish store and home owners had to repair their buildings at their own cost, and an "atonement" fee of 1 billion Reichsmarks (about $400 million) was imposed on the community.

Hilda De Lowe, writes in "My Kaleidoscope", Chapter V, "Kristallnacht":

By the time Bert and I married on September 18, 1938, Jews did not get married publicly in synagogues anymore. In fact, they did not do anything that would draw an more attention to themselves than was absolutely necessary.

The wedding ceremony was organized secretly and it was held in the home of my beloved mother-in-law, Selma." "It was only 53 days before Kristallnacht, a night of terror that would forever change the lives of all German Jews. If we had decided to honeymoon in Palestine, we might have chosen to stay there and we could have escaped this night and its hellish aftermath."

"On Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 12938, anti-Jewish riots were organized across Germany. Many Jews were killed and more than 25,000 others were taken to various new concentration camps that had been built. Every Jewish shop in virtually every city in Germany was wrecked and looted by organized gangs. Before that night, many German Jews still believed that Nazi anti-Semitism was a passing phase.

Afterwards, most Jews were convinced that the situation would only get worse and most attempted to emigrate, but for many it was too late. We had already heard on the radio that Jewish synagogues were burning all over Germany.

Sitting in our rented apartment on that evening of November 9, 1938, we heard the wail of the fire engines sounding their alarms in the streets, and the terrifying reality of Nazi Germany was suddenly on our front doorstep. There was no warning from the Germans. They simply entered our synagogue, stole everything of material value, and set the building on fire.

I copy below the rest of Hilda De Lowe's description of her Kristallnacht experiences, and a few relevant articles as well.





From "My Kaleidoscope", Chapter V, "Kristallnacht".
Written by Hilda De Lowe, 2001.

"By the time Bert and I married on September 18, 1938, Jews did not get married publicly in synagogues anymore. In fact, they did not do anything that would draw an more attention to themselves than was absolutely necessary.

The wedding ceremony was organized secretly and it was held in the home of my beloved mother-in-law, Selma." "It was only 53 days before Kristallnacht, a night of terror that would forever change the lives of all German Jews. If we had decided to honeymoon in Palestine, we might have chosen to stay there and we could have escaped this night and its hellish aftermath."

"On Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 12938, anti-Jewish riots were organized across Germany. Many Jews were killed and more than 25,000 others were taken to various new concentration camps that had been built. Every Jewish shop in virtually every city in Germany was wrecked and looted by organized gangs.

Before that night, many German Jews still believed that Nazi anti-Semitism was a passing phase. Afterwards, most Jews were convinced that the situation would only get worse and most attempted to emigrate, but for many it was too late. We had already heard on the radio that Jewish synagogues were burning all over Germany.

Sitting in our rented apartment on that evening of November 9, 1938, we heard the wail of the fire engines sounding their alarms in the streets, and the terrifying reality of Nazi Germany was suddenly on our front doorstep. There was no warning from the Germans. They simply entered our synagogue, stole everything of material value, and set the building on fire.

At that time we were sharing our apartment with our friends, Max & Erna Levy. Max and Bert quickly threw their clothes on over their pajamas and rushed to the synagogue. They wanted to save our precious torah scrolls before it was too late.

But the Nazis knew how to inflict the most damage on Jews, both physical and psychological, and they went out of their way to ensure that the Torahs would be salvageable. They knew how the sight of our holy books going up in flames would affect the Jewish community. It was a clear and forbidding sign that could been seen, heard, smelled and felt by everyone.

The Nazis immediately took all of the men into custody and moreover, declared Bert and Max the arsonists. Upon his initial arrest, they beat Bert until he was willing to sign a false statement that we had guns in our apartment in preparation for a riot. It was an incredibly difficult time for everyone.

Bert was not arrested by just any Nazi. Aside from being an avid music lover, Bert was also a sportsman. From a very early age, he played soccer on a non-Jewish team with two or three other Jewish friends. They had been playing together for years. Bert's former soccer mate, Edo Gerdes, had turned into Norden's number one SS man.

The SS were Hitler's special police force. You can imagine Bert's horror when his former teammate did not hesitate to seize him like a common criminal and to escort him to jail, where he knew Bert was to be beaten. Somebody came to my apartment to tell me that all of the Jewish men in Norden had been arrested. Half were taken into prison. The other half, including my father, were taken to the Jewish school. All of them were waiting transfer to the newly built concentration camp in Sachsenhausen the next morning.

We were instructed to prepare sandwiches for the men's journey. I was filled with fear. I headed to the Jewish school to see my father and when I bent to hug and kiss him, I was given a hard kick in the back.

The next morning, while the men were being taken in cattle cars to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the women were ordered to clean up the synagogue. This included dragging heavy beams that remained from the fire to the playground of the Jewish school. It was backbreaking work and we were under SS supervision from morning until nightfall when they finally let us go.

We were verbally abused and hit repeatedly if we showed any signs of wearing down. As we were cleaning, our tears never stopped flowing. All we could do was cry and try to salvage the remnants of our holy books. Our beautiful synagogue had been savagely destroyed and we were helpless to do anything about it.

We understood that our lives had been changed forever and we were full of fear and dread for the future. We knew neither what would happen to our husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons, nor if we would ever see them again. In the days and weeks that followed, we tried to focus completely on how to get our relatives out of the concentration camps.

The older ones, like my father who had fought in World War I, were out in two weeks. My father had earned the Eisenes Kreuz (the Iron Cross) the highest German military decoration for bravery, and the SS released him as a Front Soldat, a soldier who had fought on the front lines for Germany."

Jack, Hilda's son, writes:

Because my father had had the foresight to apply for a visa to the U.S. some 4 years earlier, he was released from Sachsenhausen some 6 weeks later and my parents did manage to escape the horror.

My grandfather, although an Iron Cross recipient, eventually was murdered in Auschwitz along with 32 other members of my family. Some things simply don't seem to change. There were some Jews who felt more German than Jewish and thought this would save them from what was coming. We see exactly the same thing happening today - we can have our disputes between us for this is healthy in a free society, but we must never forget that those who come to kill us and our children today do not distinguish between what kind of Jew we are.

Jack


Subject: Never Again
The Night of Broken Glass

On the nights of November 9 and 10, rampaging mobs throughout Germany and the newly acquired territories of Austria and Sudetenland freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes and at their places of work and worship. At least 96 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured, more than 1,000 synagogues were burned (and possibly as many as 2,000), almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, cemeteries and schools were vandalized, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

During the November pogroms, stormtroopers smashed Jewish store windows, destroyed goods, and carried out massive looting. German officials calculated that 7,500 enterprises were damaged or destroyed in the rampages.

The Nazis forced the Jews to pay the costs of the pogroms and banned them from gainful economic activity. Insurance monies to cover the damages were confiscated, Jewish store and home owners had to repair their buildings at their own cost, and an "atonement" fee of 1 billion Reichsmarks (about $400 million) was imposed on the community.

The official German position on these events, which were clearly orchestrated by Goebbels, was that they were spontaneous outbursts. The Fuehrer, Goebbels reported to Party officials in Munich, "has decided that such demonstrations are not to be prepared or organized by the party, but so far as they originate spontaneously, they are not to be discouraged either."

A Personal Memoir By Michael Bruce
Michael Bruce, a non-Jewish Englishman, provided this eyewitness account:

...Hurriedly we went out into the street. It was crowded with people, all hurrying towards a nearby synagogue, shouting and gesticulating angrily. We followed. As we reached the synagogue and halted, silent and angry, on the fringe of the mob, flames began to rise from one end of the building. It was the signal for a wild cheer. The crowd surged forward and greedy hands tore seats and woodwork from the building to feed the flames.

Behind us we heard more shouts. Turning, we saw a section of the mob start off along the road towards Israel's store where, during the day, piles of granite cubes, ostensibly for repairing the roads, had been heaped. Youths, men and women, howling deliriously, hurled the blocks through the windows and at the closed doors. In a few minutes the doors gave way and the mob, shouting and fighting, surged inside to pillage and loot.

By now the streets were a chaos of screaming bloodthirsty people lusting for Jewish bodies. I saw Harrison of The News Chronicle, trying to protect an aged Jewess who had been dragged from her home by a gang. I pushed my way through to help him and, between us, we managed to heave her through the crowd to a side street and safety.

We turned back towards Israel's, but now the crowd, eager for fresh conquests, was pouring down a side road towards the outskirts of the city. We hurried after them in time to see one of the foulest exhibitions of bestiality I have ever witnessed.

The object of the mob's hate was a hospital for sick Jewish children, many of them cripples or consumptives. In minutes the windows had been smashed and the doors forced. When we arrived, the swine were driving the wee mites out over the broken glass, bare-footed and wearing nothing but their nightshirts. The nurses, doctors, and attendants were being kicked and beaten by the mob leaders, most of whom were women.

Epilogue

The tragedy of Kristallnacht was not the destruction. No nation has been free of violence. No nation has been free of the rowdiness of the ignorant. The tragedy, rather, was that government, which should protect the individual and his property against violence, in this instance encouraged and abetted the violence against the Jews. The violence was a joint act by the government and the populace. Early on the day of November 9 a message went out from Gestapo headquarters: "There will be very shortly in Germany actions against the Jews, especially against the synagogues. These actions are not to be interfered with."

- Leonard Baker

Posted by David Melle
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Comments

The horrors of Kristallnacht must never be forgotten. It wasn't just the Nazi state that participated in this; it was the body of Germany that pillaged their Jewish countrymen of everything. As Hans Frank stated at Nuremberg "A thousand years will pass and Germany's guilt shall not be erased". As well as it shouldn't.

Posted by: Steve Kalman at March 8, 2007 08:52 PM


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