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Event Leading Up to Kristallnacht
What led to the Night of Broken Glass?
Hitler came into power in 1933 with a plan- to expand Germany's rule and to completely annihilate the world's Jews. The time up until, and even after, Kristallnacht was ripe with new laws and governmental policies that regulated Jewish life and persecuted the Jews in Germany, stripping them entirely of their freedom.
Polish Jewish student Herschel Grynszpan was one of the many deeply affected and hurt by these discriminatory laws, most specifically laws that forced his family to emigrate from Germany, where they had lived nearly their entire lives. In order to express his anger and frustration and protest the persecution in Germany, Grynszpan acted out against the Nazis. His final action was to assassinate the German Secretary Ernst von Rath. This assassination was used as an excuse by Hitler and the Nazis to further persecute the Jews by dedicating an entire night to the destruction of Jewish properties, synagogues, and Jewish life itself. However, this reasoning begs the question: Is it really right to hold an entire people accountable for the actions of just one person?
The Nuremberg Laws
Caption: Reproduction of the first page of an addendum to the Reich Citizenship Law of September 15, 1935. The Reich Citizenship Law was one of two legislative acts promulgated at a special session of the Reichstag in Nuremberg during the annual Nazi Party rally in 1935. Together they came to be known as the Nuremberg Laws and served as the basis for the exclusion of Jews from German society and for all subsequent anti-Jewish legislation enacted during the Third Reich.
-USHMM, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
Up until this point, terror and violence had been the primary means of proliferating antisemitism and Jewish persecution. However, this method was largely unpredictable and unmanageable. Hitler had no way to control the means or the range of the Nazis' terror techniques. Therefore, Hitler and his Cabinet enacted the Nuremberg Laws as a way to announce and spread antisemitism in an organized manner. This new anti-Jewish legislation was made official September 15, 1935, at the annual NSDAP congress at Nuremberg, thus acquiring the name the Nuremberg Laws. These regulations categorized Jews as members of a unique race, rather than members of a religious tradition. This gave false purpose to Jewish persecution, as it was now the Nazis' goal to supposedly maintain the purity of German blood.
The new laws held several consequences. Marriage between Germans and Jews was now forbidden. More devastating, however, was that the Jews were no longer citizens of Germany. They were instead characterized as subjects of the German Reich, as they were not of German blood according to the Nazi laws, but yet lived under the protection of the Reich and were thus obligated to it. Because they were no longer considered German citizens, Jews no longer enjoyed any political rights, nor were they protected from the country's judiciary system. Jews were basically left to the will of the state.
Caption: Eugenics poster entitled "The Nuremberg Law for the Protection of Blood and German Honor." The illustration is a stylized map of the borders of central Germany on which is imposed a schematic of the forbidden degrees of marriage between Aryans and non-Aryans and the text of the Law for the Protection of German Blood.
- USHMM, courtesy of Hans Pauli
Nazi Policies Against the Jews In addition to the discriminatory legislation and actions described above, the Nazis also revoked Jewish privileges to hold public office, to vote, and to own rural property. German Jews were also made to pay double the taxes as other German citizens, due to their being considered 'aliens' in Germany.
The Nazis continued to use their flawed and irrational racial theory to further propagate discrimination against the Jews. On April 11, 1938, Hitler's government made a decree stating their definition of "Aryan" and "non-Aryan." A "non-Aryan" was considered anyone who descended from non-Aryan parents or grandparents, especially parents or grandparents who were Jewish. Each person was made to prove their "Aryan" descent through birth certificates, parents' marriage certificates, and a series of questionnaires about genealogy. The law stated at the time: "A Jew is a Jew is a Jew," meaning that qualification as a "non-Aryan" and the persecution executed by the Nazis extended down to the third generation.
The Assassination of Ernst von Rath
Caption: Portrait of Herschel Grynszpan taken after his arrest by French authorities for the assassination of German diplomat Ernst von Rath.
-USHMM, courtesy of Morris Rosen
The Polish government recognized what was going on in Germany and began to fear that Germany would expel Jews living in German who were Polish citizens and force them to return to Poland. The Polish government issued a decree stating that the citizenship of Poles living abroad would be annulled unless these Poles received a special stamp from Polish officials by October 31st. Without this stamp, Polish citizens would be refused re-entry into Poland.
The stamp was not given out, however, leaving approximately 50,000 Polish Jews without permission to re-enter the country. The German government learned that Poland would not allow their Jews to return, so Hitler ordered on October 28, 1938, that 12,000 Polish-born Jews be expelled from Germany. These Jews were given one night to leave Germany, with only one suitcase to carry their belongings. They were put on trains to the Polish border, and were dropped off at the station in Zbaszyn, without permission to enter either country. Four thousand Jews were eventually let into Poland, but at least 7,000 were forced to stay at the station in Zbasyn, without food, housing, money, or any information on what was to happen.
The parents and sister of 17-year-old Polish Jewish student Herschel Grynszpan were among those expelled from Germany, although his parents had lived in Hanover since 1914. Herschel was studying in Paris, but his sister sent him a postcard explaining their predicament, which he received on November 3rd. Furious, Grynszpan bought a pistol and some bullets on November 6th, and on November 7th, went to the German Embassy with a plan to kill the Ambassador.
Grynszpan did not get a shot at the Ambassador, but he did shoot the Third Secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, Ernst von Rath, who died two days later. This act opened the door for Hitler and the Nazis to further their campaign against the Jews. On November 8th, the German newspapers denounced Jews as murderers, blaming the Jewish people as a whole for the killing of von Rath. New anti-Jewish legislation was declared, which banned all Jewish newspapers and publications, suspended all Jewish cultural activities, and prohibited all Jewish children from attending "Aryan" state elementary schools.
Hitler found out about von Rath's death on November 9th, while in Munich at a gathering of Nazi Party leaders. ii His Minister of Propaganda, Dr. Josef Goebbels, explained to him that violence against the Jews had already broken out, but Goebbels encouraged Hitler to allow further punishment of the Jews through more "spontaneous demonstrations" of violence. Hitler's response is recorded in Goebbel's diary:
"He decides: demonstrations should be allowed to continue. The police
should be withdrawn. For once the Jews should get the feel of popular
anger. ... I immediately give the necessary instructions to the police
and the Party. Then I briefly speak in that vein to the Party leadership.
Stormy applause. All are instantly at the phones. Now people will act." iii
On October 27th, about 17,000 Jews of Polish origin, including over 2,000 children, were abruptly expelled from Germany on orders of Reinhard Heydrich, second-in-command of the SS. The Grynszpan family from the city of Hanover were among the Jews forcibly transported in railroad cars then dumped at the Polish border as unwanted persons. Polish border authorities at first denied them permission to enter. The Jews thus ended up in a kind of no-man's-land between the German and Polish borders.
Herschel Grynszpan was born on the 28 March 1921 in Hannover, Germany, to Zindel and Rivka Grynszpan. He was one of three children an elder sister named Esther and a brother Mordechai.
Zindel a tailor prospered and Herschel grew up an intelligent sensitive child, with few close friends and was an active member of the Bar-Kochba Jewish youth sports club in the city. He studied at a Yeshiva in Frankfurt-am-Main, but he returned to Hannover where he applied to emigrate to Palestine, but this was rejected due to his youth.
Herschel Grynszpan went to live with his uncle and aunt Abraham and Chawa Grynszpan in Paris in September 1936 via another uncle Wolf who was living in Belgium. He entered France illegally as he would not have been granted entry to France, as he had neither work, nor financial support.
He settled in Paris living in a small Yiddish speaking group of Polish Orthodox Jews. He spent the next two years in vain trying to stay in France legally but this was unsuccessful. His re-entry permit for Germany expired in April 1937 and his Polish passport expired nine months later leaving Herschel without any legal basis for staying in France.
During the same period under the Nazis Zindel Grynszpan’s business declined and the Nazis made life increasingly difficult for Jews living there, with ever increasing restrictive regulations.
The Grynszpan’s were among the estimated 12,000 Polish Jews arrested, by the Nazis, deprived of their property and herded abroad trains destined for the Polish border.
When they reached the border, they were forced to walk several kilometres to the Polish border town of Zbaszyn, called Neubentschen in German. Zindel sent Herschel a postcard from Zbaszyn telling Herschel what had happened and asking for him to rescue them, the postcard reached Herschel in Paris on the 3 November 1938.
On the morning of the 7 November 1938 Herschel Grynszpan wrote a farewell postcard to his parents, which he never posted, bought a revolver and ammunition from a shop in Rue du Faubourg St Martin and caught a metro train to the Solferino metro station.
From there he went to the German Embassy at 78 Rue de Lille and asked, as a German citizen, to see an Embassy official. Herschel Grynszpan was shown into the office of junior official Ernst vom Rath. Grynszpan shot vom Rath several times, as an act of protest in the name of 12,000 persecuted Jews. He was arrested immediately by the French police.
Despite the best medical care vom Rath died on the 9 November 1938, he was given a state funeral in Dusseldorf attended by Adolf Hitler and Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop.
The death of Ernst vom Rath was the catalyst for the Nazis to launch the Kristallnacht and on the night of 9 November 1938 the Storm Troopers took to the streets crying for vengeance.
The Brown-shirts invaded synagogues and Jewish shops and homes to break, burn and loot, in their wake leaving shards of glass and shattered windows. Nearly 100 Jews died in the night of violence and some 30,000 Jews were arrested and interned in concentration camps, many to die from the savage brutality within the camps. Grynszpan’s family who were in Poland were not affected by the murderous pogrom.
From November 1938 to June 1940 Herschel was imprisoned by the French in Fresnes Prison near Paris, before being moved to the prison in Toulouse. One month after the German occupation on the 18 July 1940 Grynszpan was transferred from the Toulouse Prison to the border of the un-occupied zone where he was taken back to Paris by SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Karl Boemelburg, who was tasked with bringing Grynszpan into captivity.
From Paris he was flown to Berlin and locked up in the Gestapo headquarters at Prinz Albrechtstrasse. He was held in German custody in a number of Gestapo institutions, including Moabit Prison in Berlin, and Flossenburg and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.
The Nazis planned a great show trial orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels, hoping to demonstrate Grynszpan’s link with a Jewish conspiracy to plunge Europe into a war. Grynszpan himself seems to have sabotaged this scheme by reviving a story that had been fabricated about a homosexual liaison between the junior diplomat and himself.
During his time in Gestapo captivity in Berlin Grynszpan was brought before Adolf Eichmann who testified in his trial to meeting Herschel in either 1943 or 1944, and he recalled the meeting:
“I merely said then to Krischak that if he had completed the interrogation, I wanted him to bring him to me upstairs, for I very much wanted – for once – to look at the man Grynszpan. I wanted to talk to him.
And I did then exchange a few words with Grynszpan. He was very brief and brusque, was indifferent and gave short replies to all the questions. I wanted to ask him, since I had no knowledge at all of the whole matter, where he had been and things of that kind.
On the whole he looked well, he was small – he was a smallish lad…. this is still preserved in my memory, and then he was again returned to custody in Prinz Albrechtstrasse 8.”
His manner of death has never been ascertained but he was in all probability murdered by the Gestapo in Magdeburg Prison, he had been transferred there from Berlin.
On June 1, 1960, the Amtsgericht (Lower Court) of Hanover declared Herschel Grynszpan deceased. The date of death was fixed as May 8, 1945. It became official on July 24, 1960.
- 28 March 1921~ May 8, 1945
The death of vom Rath and the horrors of the Kristallnacht pogroms brought Herschel Grynszpan international notoriety. On 14 November Dorothy Thompson, who in 1934 had become the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany, made an impassioned broadcast to an estimated 5 million listeners in defense of Grynszpan, pointing out that the Nazis themselves had made heroes of the assassins of Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss and German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau."I am speaking of this boy [she said]. Soon he will go on trial. The news is that on top of all this terror, this horror, one more must pay. They say he will go to the guillotine, without a trial by jury, with the rights that any common murderer has... Who is on trial in this case? I say we are all on trial. I say the men of Munich are on trial, who signed a pact without one word of protection for helpless minorities. Whether Herschel Grynszpan lives or not won't matter much to Herschel. He was prepared to die when he fired those shots. His young life was already ruined. Since then, his heart has been broken into bits by the results of his deed."They say a man is entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers, and a man's kinsmen rally around him, when he is in trouble. But no kinsman of Herschel's can defend him. The Nazi government has announced that if any Jews, anywhere in the world, protest at anything that is happening, further oppressive measures will be taken. They are holding every Jew in Germany as a hostage. Therefore, we who are not Jews must speak, speak our sorrow and indignation and disgust in so many voices that they will be heard. This boy has become a symbol, and the responsibility for his deed must be shared by those who caused it."
Liberal and left-wing newspapers and commentators in many countries echoed her sentiments. While deploring the assassination, they argued that Grynszpan had been driven to his act by the Nazi persecution of German Jews and of his family in particular.
Jewish organizations were horrified by Grynszpan's action, which they condemned more severely than most non-Jewish liberals, while echoing the plea of extenuating circumstances, and condemning the subsequent victimization of all German Jews in response to the act of an isolated individual. The World Jewish Congress "deplored the fatal shooting of an official of the German Embassy by a young Polish Jew of seventeen", but "protested energetically against the violent attacks in the German press against the whole of Judaism because of this act" and especially against the "reprisals taken against the German Jews." The Alliance Israélite Universelle in France "rejected all forms of violence, regardless of author or victim", but "indignantly protested the barbarous treatment inflicted on an entire innocent population."
Several appeals were launched to raise money for Grynszpan's defense. In the U.S., Thompson launched an appeal which raised more than $40,000 in a few weeks: she asked that Jews not donate to the fund, so that the Nazis could not attribute Grynszpan's defense to a Jewish conspiracy. Jewish organizations also raised money. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, two Paris Jewish lawyers, Szwarc and Vésinne-Larue, were engaged by the Grynszpan family.
Once the case became internationally known the family sought a well known lawyer and retained Isidore Franckel one of Paris's leading advocates and President of the Central Committee of the Alliance of Revisionists-Zionists, also known as Hatzohar. Isidore Franckel wanted a well known non-Jewish lawyer as co-counsel and engaged Vincent de Moro-Giafferi, a flamboyant Corsican, leading anti-fascist activist and a former Education Minister in Radical government of Édouard Herriot. Moro-Giafferri engaged a Yiddish-speaking lawyer, Serge Weill-Goudchaux, as his associate. Legal fees and costs were paid by Dorothy Thompson's defense fund.
Until Franckel and Moro-Giafferi took over the defense, everybody had accepted that Grynszpan went to the Embassy in a rage and shot the first German he saw, as a political act to avenge the persecution of his family and German Jews in general. Grynszpan's own statements after his arrest supported this: he reportedly said to the Paris police: "Being a Jew is not a crime. I am not a dog. I have a right to live and the Jewish people have a right to exist on this earth. Wherever I have been, I have been chased like an animal."
Franckel and Moro-Giafferi, however, took the view that if Grynszpan was allowed to claim from the dock that he had shot vom Rath with such a motive, this would result in his certain conviction and possibly take him to the guillotine (despite his being a minor), since French law took a severe view of political assassination. If, on the other hand, the crime could be shown to have had a non-political motive, this might lead to an acquittal, or at least to a lesser sentence, since French law traditionally took a lenient view of the (crime of passion). His legal strategy was thus to "depoliticize" Grynszpan's actions.
The Homosexual Theory
This seems to have been the origin of the theory that Grynszpan was acquainted with vom Rath prior to the shooting, and that vom Rath was his intended victim. According to this version of events, vom Rath was a homosexual, and met Grynszpan in a Paris bar, Le Boeuf sur le Toit. It is not clear whether Grynszpan was himself alleged to be homosexual, or whether he was said to be using his youth and appearance to win an influential friend. According to this theory, vom Rath had promised to use his influence to get Grynszpan's position in France regularized. When vom Rath reneged on this promise, Grynszpan went to the Embassy and shot him.
In support of the theory, Hans-Jürgen Döscher, a leading German authority on the period and author of Reichskristallnacht, published documents in 2001 which he said showed that Grynszpan and vom Rath had had a sexual relationship. Döscher quoted extracts from the diary of French author André Gide, himself homosexual and well-informed regarding Parisian gay gossip. Vom Rath, Gide wrote, "had an exceptionally intimate relationship with the little Jew, his murderer." Later Gide said: "The idea that such a highly thought-of representative of the Third Reich sinned twice according to the laws of his country is rather amusing."
There are arguments against the theory that vom Rath had a sexual relationship with Grynszpan. There is no evidence that they had ever met other than second-hand gossip of the type recorded by Gide. The officials at the German Embassy were clear that Grynszpan had not asked to see vom Rath by name, and that he saw vom Rath only because he happened to be on duty at the time Grynszpan visited the Embassy, and because the desk clerk asked vom Rath to see Grynszpan. While interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1941, Grynszpan told fellow inmates that although he was intending to claim at his trial that he had had homosexual relations with vom Rath, this was not true.
Most postwar writers, including Ron Roizen, the French historian Dr. Alain Cuenot, and the American investigator Gerald Schwab, maintain that Moro-Giafferi fabricated the story about a homosexual relationship with vom Rath after the murder, in order to assist in Grynszpan's defence. Michael Marrus wrote:The origin of the story of homosexuality was the defendant's French attorney, Maitre Moro-Giafferi. He claimed in 1947 that he simply invented the story as a possible line of defense, one that would put the affair in an entirely new light. In fact, however, rumors about vom Rath's homosexuality were in the air in Paris immediately after the assassination. Whatever the origins of the story, its utility was obvious: the murder could be presented not as a political act but as a cause passionelle - a lover's quarrel, in which the German diplomat could be judged incidentally as having seduced a minor. Moro-Giafferi shared the fears of the Grynszpan committee at the time of Kristallnacht that a political trial would be a catastrophe for the Jews of Germany and elsewhere. By adopting this legal strategy, they hope to defuse the affair and also reduce the penalty drastically, possible even prompting a suspended sentence.
Further evidence is presented by Gerald Schwab in the form of a letter, sent to Ernst vom Rath's brother in 1964 by Erich Wollenburg, acommunist exile from Nazi Germany who claimed to be an associate of Moro-Giafferi:One day, and unless I am mistaken it was in the spring of 1939, I met Moro-Giafferi on Boulevard St. Michel, and I asked him for news of Grunspahn (sic) for whom he was the defence lawyer. He had just come from visiting him in his cell, and was revolted by the attitude of his client. "That young man is a fool, infatuated with himself", he said. "He refuses to give a non-political character to his act by saying for example that he assassinated vom Rath because he had had money quarrels with him following homosexual relations.
Yet, such an attitude in regard to the murder of vom Rath is necessary, in order to save the Jews of the Third Reich, whose lives are becoming more and more precarious in regard to the prosperity, their health, their futures, etc. If only... he would deny the political motives of his crime, and assert that he had only personal vengeance in mind, vengeance as a victim of homosexuality, the Nazis would lose their best pretext for exercising their reprisals against the German Jews who are victims of his fit of madness and now, of his obstinacy." I asked him if Grunspahn really had had relations with vom Rath. He replied, "Absolutely not!" I said to him then, "But as a defender of Gruhnspahn shouldn't you protect not only the interests of your client, but his honour as well?"
It was at that moment that Moro-Giafferi exclaimed, "Honour! Honour! What is the honour of that absurd little Jew in the face of the criminal action of Hitler? What does the honour of Grunspahn weigh in the face of the destiny of thousands of Jews?"
Paris to Berlin
From November 1938 to June 1940 Grynszpan was imprisoned in the Fresnes Prison in Paris while legal arguments continued over the conduct of his trial. The defence sought to delay the trial as long as possible by making procedural difficulties, in the hope that the publicity surrounding the vom Rath murder would quiet down and the trial would be less politicized. But the prosecution was also in no hurry.
The heavyhanded actions of the Germans did not help. A German lawyer, Friedrich Grimm, was sent to Paris, supposedly representing the vom Rath family, but in fact was widely known to be an agent of Goebbels. Grimm tried to argue that Grynszpan should be extradited to Germany, even though he was not a German citizen - there was no way the French government could agree to this.
The Germans argued that Grynszpan had acted as the agent of a Jewish conspiracy, and their fruitless efforts to find evidence to support this contention further delayed the trial. The outbreak of World War II in September 1939 made it impossible for the Germans to participate further (although they engaged a Swiss lawyer to represent their interests), and also causing the French authorities to lose interest in prosecuting Grynszpan. Grynszpan applied for release from detention so that he could join the French Foreign Legion, but this was refused.
Once the war broke out, Moro-Giafferi changed his tactics and demanded an immediate trial, confident that the anti-German mood, and the inability of the Germans to present evidence, would result in Grynszpan's acquittal. But the investigating judge had joined the army, the Ministry of Justice did not want the trial to proceed, and the Swiss lawyer engaged by the Germans employed various delaying tactics. As a result, there was no trial, and Grynszpan was still in prison when the invading German Army approached Paris in June 1940.
The French authorities evacuated the inhabitants of the Paris prisons to the south in early June. Grynszpan was sent first to Orléans, from where he was sent by bus to the prison at Bourges. En route, however, the convoy was attacked by German aircraft. Some prisoners were killed, while others escaped in the confusion.
One of these was apparently Grynszpan, since he was not among the survivors who arrived in Bourges. But Grynszpan had not escaped; he had merely been left behind. Remarkably, instead of making good his escape, he walked to Bourges and turned himself in to the police. From Bourges he was sent to make his own way to Toulouse.
Presumably the French expected him to disappear, but he duly presented himself at the prison in Toulouse and was incarcerated. Grynszpan had no money, knew no one in France, and spoke little French. Apparently he believed he would be safer in a French prison than wandering the countryside.
The Nazis, however, were on Grynszpan's trail. Friedrich Grimm, by now an official of the German Foreign Ministry, and SS SturmbannführerKarl Bömelburg arrived in Paris on 15 June with orders to find Grynszpan. They followed him to Orléans, then to Bourges, where they learned that he had been sent to Toulouse, which was in the Unoccupied Zone to be run by the authorities of Vichy France.
France had surrendered on 22 June, and one of the terms of the armistice gave the Germans the right to demand that France surrender all "Germans named by the German Government" to the German occupation authorities. Although Grynszpan was not a German citizen, Germany had been his last place of legal residence, and the Vichy authorities made no objection to Grimm's formal demand that he be handed over. On 18 July Grynszpan was delivered to Bömelburg at the border of the Occupied Zone. He was driven back to Paris, flown to Berlin and locked up in theGestapo headquarters at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse.
Grynszpan versus Goebbels
Grynszpan spent the remainder of his life in German custody, being shuttled between Moabit Prison in Berlin and the concentration camps atSachsenhausen and Flossenbürg. At Sachsenhausen he was housed in the "bunker" reserved for "special prisoners" - he shared it with the last Chancellor of Austria, Kurt Schuschnigg. He received comparatively mild treatment because Goebbels intended that he be made the subject of a propaganda show trial, to prove the complicity of "international Jewry" in the vom Rath murder. Grimm and an official of Goebbels's ministry, Wolfgang Diewerge, were put in charge of the preparations, using the files which had been seized from Moro-Giafferi's offices in Paris (Moro-Giafferi himself had escaped to Switzerland).
Goebbels, however, found it just as difficult to bring Grynszpan to trial in Germany as he had done in France. The Nazis held unchallenged political power, but the state bureaucracy retained its independence in many areas (and in fact harboured the most effective networks of theGerman Resistance).
The Justice Ministry, still staffed by lawyers concerned to uphold the letter of the law, argued correctly that since Grynszpan was not a German citizen, he could not be tried in Germany for a murder he had committed outside Germany, and since he had been a minor at the time he could not face the death penalty. These arguments dragged on through 1940 and into 1941.
The solution was to charge Grynszpan with high treason, for which he could be legally tried and executed if convicted. It took some time to persuade everyone concerned of the "legality" of this, and it was not until October 1941 that he was formally indicted. The indictment argued that Grynszpan's objective in shooting vom Rath had been to "prevent through force of threats the Führer and Reichschancellor from the conduct of their constitutional functions" at the behest of international Jewry.
In November Goebbels saw Hitler and gained his approval for a show trial that would put "World Jewry in the dock." The trial was set for January 1942. It was arranged for the former French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet to testify that "World Jewry" had been responsible for dragging France into a war with Germany. This was the political objective of the trial.
January 1942 came, however, and the trial did not take place. This was partly because of more momentous events. The United States had entered the war in December, the same month that the German armies had suffered a major setback on the eastern front before Moscow. In February the Riom Trial of Blum and other French politicians was due to begin - Goebbels did not want two show trials at once. It was partly also because of further legal difficulties. It was feared that Grynszpan would challenge the legality of his deportation from France, which the Justice Ministry officials felt had been "irregular."
Most disturbing of all, however, was the revelation that Grynszpan would claim that he had shot von Rath because he had had homosexual relations with him. This was communicated to Grimm, Diewerge and other officials by Roland Freisler, later the head of the People's Court, but at this time State Secretary of the Justice Ministry, on 22 January.
Apparently Grynszpan, having rejected the idea of using this line of defence when Moro-Giafferi had thought of it in 1938, had decided that it was worth a try. He had told one of his Gestapo interrogators, DrHeinrich Jagusch, that he intended using this defense as long ago as mid 1941, but the Justice Ministry had not informed Goebbels, who was furious. He wrote in his diary:"Grynszpan has invented the insolent argument that he had a homosexual relationship with... vom Rath. That is, of course, a shameless lie; however it is thought out very cleverly and would, if brought out in the course of a public trial, certainly become the main argument of enemy propaganda."
In March Goebbels again saw Hitler, and assured him that the trial would get under way in May. He did not, however, warn Hitler of the problem of the possibility that Grynszpan might claim that he had had homosexual relations with vom Rath. In April he was still grappling with the problem. He wrote:"I am having lots of work preparing the Grynszpan trial. The Ministry of Justice has deemed it proper to furnish the defendant, the Jew Grynszpan, the argument of Article 175 [the German law against homosexuality]. Grynszpan until now has always claimed, and rightly so, that he had not even known the Counsellor of the Legation whom he shot. Now there is in existence some sort of anonymous letter by a Jewish refugee, which leaves open the likelihood of homosexual intercourse between Grysnpan and vom Rath. It is an absurd, typically Jewish, claim.
The Ministry of Justice, however, did not hesitate to incorporate this claim in the indictment and to send the indictment to the defendant. This shows again how foolishly our legal experts have acted in this case, and how shortsighted it is to entrust any political matter whatever to the jurists."
On 10 April the acting Justice Minister, Franz Schlegelberger, wrote to Goebbels demanding to know whether Hitler, when he had authorized the trial, had been aware that Grynszpan was planning to use the "homosexual defense." The issue that was troubling the Justice Ministry was not the allegation that vom Rath had had a sexual relationship with Grynszpan - they knew that to be false, and in fact they knew Grynszpan had told some of his fellow prisoners at Sachsenhausen that it was false.
The problem was their belief that vom Rath had in fact been homosexual, that Grynszpan knew details of this (these had been given to him by Moro-Giafferi in Paris), and that he would reveal them in court. This would embarrass both the vom Rath family and the Foreign Ministry. It was also learned that vom Rath's brother Gustav had served a prison sentence for homosexual offences.
Soon after this, Hitler was made aware of the problem - by whom it is not clear, but it is probable that the matter had reached the ears ofMartin Bormann, head of the Party Chancellery and Hitler's private secretary, who thought it his duty to inform Hitler that Goebbels had not told him the whole truth about the Grynszpan case. It is probably not coincidental that the Riom
Trial was called off on 4 April, after Blum and the other defendants had used it as a platform to attack the Vichy regime. This no doubt helped influence Hitler against a further risky show trial. In any event, by the beginning of May 1942 it was clear to all that Hitler did not favour a trial. The matter was raised on and off for several months more, but without Hitler's approval there could be no progress. In recognition of this, Grynszpan was moved in September to the prison at Magdeburg.
Grynszpan's fate after September 1942 is not known. Since his trial was never actually called off, merely postponed indefinitely, he was probably kept alive in case circumstances changed and a trial became possible. He was still alive in late 1943 or early 1944, when he was interrogated by Adolf Eichmann at Gestapo headquarters in Berlin.
Ron Roisen reports rumours that he was still alive in Magdeburg Prison in January 1945, but there is no definitive evidence of this. There were rumours after the war that he had survived and was living under another name in Paris, but there is no evidence for this. He was declared legally dead by the West German government in 1960.
His parents, having sent him to "safety" in Paris while they and his siblings stayed in Germany, survived the war. Having been deported to Poland, they escaped in 1939 to the Soviet Union. After the war they migrated to Israel. Sendel Grynszpan, Herschel's father, was present at the Israeli premiere in 1952 of Sir Michael Tippett's oratorio about Grynszpan, A Child of Our Time.
Fact or Fiction?
Shortly after the war, one of Grynszpan's original lawyers reported that the youth had been executed by the Nazis after his transfer into their hands in 1940. But even today many believe that the boy miraculously managed to survive.
In November 1959 the London Magazine World Jewry ran an article by German journalist Egon Larsen titled, 'The Boy Who Pulled the Trigger. German Documents Reveal How Feibel Grynszpan Survived It All'. Beyond reaffirming the survival hypothesis, it reported that
'Grynszpan was kept in prison until the end of the war and finally freed by the Allies. He returned to Paris, adopted a new name, and started a new life. Now [in 1959] in his late thirties, married and with two children, he works in a Paris suburban garage. His apparent fear that if it were known who he really is he might one day become himself the victim of revenge, may not be too far-fetched.'
Herschel Grynszpan's parents survived the war and later emigrated to Israel. They played a part in the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, and Herschel's father and brother testified that all their previous efforts to find Herschel had failed.
But as the Grynszpan family told the Jerusalem Post in 1988: Herschel's act was one of the first expressions of Jewish resistance to the Nazis.
Back row, far left: The Mayor; Aharon Zolty; last four unknown.
Front row, left to right: Hava (Eve), the stepdaughter of Rabbi Zendel;
Mordekhai Grynspan (son of Zendel and brother of Herschel Grynszpan);
Zendel Grynszpan (father of Herschel Grynszpan.)
Kristallnact, also known as the "Night of the Broken Glass," took place on the nights of November 9 - 10, 1938. Jews in Germany and Austria suffered attacks on their businesses, homes, and synagogues. The windows of these buildings were smashed, thus naming the event Kristallnact. Broken glass was scattered throughout the streets
The event that provoked Kristallnact was the assassination of Ernst von Rath, third secretary of the German embassy in Paris, by Hershel Grynszpan, the son of Polish Jewish parents living in Germany
In the two days of Kristallnact, more than 2,000 synagogues were burned, each containing Torahs, prayer books, and bibles. As synagogues burned, fire fighters were ordered to let them burn and were to intervene only if the fires threatened adjacent Aryan properties. Around 7,500 businesses were demolished and looted. Ninety-one Jews were killed. Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were destroyed. About 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps, which had to be expanded due to the large number of deportees
The cost of the broken glass totaled about $2 million dollars, and any insurance money compensated to the Jews for the damage was confiscated by the Reich. A fine of $400 million dollars was imposed on the Jewish community
On November 15, Jews were barred from schools, given a curfew, and denied access to most public places. All remaining Jewish businesses were taken over by the Reich
- November 9 - 10, 1938.
"Nazis Slaughter Millions of European Jews."
"Nazis Slaughter Millions of European Jews."
the South Pacific Daily News, dated x, 1944 and printed by US Forces in the Pacific Theatre of WW II.
This is the EARLIEST report I have seen of the extent of the HOLOCAUST against the Jews of Europe by the Nazis.
Oberramstadt, Germany, November 9-10, 1938
As the synagogue in Oberramstadt burns during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"), firefighters instead save a nearby house. Local residents watch as the synagogue is destroyed. Oberramstadt, Germany, November 9-10, 1938.
— United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
On the night of November 9, 1938, violence against Jews broke out across the Reich. It appeared to be unplanned, set off by Germans' anger over the assassination of a German official in Paris at the hands of a Jewish teenager. In fact, German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and other Nazis carefully organized the pogroms. In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, dozens of Jewish people were killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by. The pogroms became known as Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," for the shattered glass from the store windows that littered the streets.
The morning after the pogroms 30,000 German Jewish men were arrested for the "crime" of being Jewish and sent to concentration camps, where hundreds of them perished. Some Jewish women were also arrested and sent to local jails. Businesses owned by Jews were not allowed to reopen unless they were managed by non-Jews. Curfews were placed on Jews, limiting the hours of the day they could leave their homes.
After the "Night of Broken Glass,"life was even more difficult for German and Austrian Jewish children and teenagers. Already barred from entering museums, public playgrounds, and swimming pools, now they were expelled from the public schools. Jewish youngsters, like their parents, were totally segregated in Germany. In despair, many Jewish adults committed suicide. Most families tried desperately to leave.Key Dates
OCTOBER 28, 1938
GERMANY EXPELS POLISH JEWS
About 17,000 Polish Jews are expelled by Germany and forced across the border with Poland. Poland refuses to allow the Jews to enter. Most of the deportees are stranded in the no-man's-land between Germany and Poland near the town of Zbaszyn. Among the deportees are the parents of Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew living in Paris, France.
NOVEMBER 7, 1938
GERMAN DIPLOMAT SHOT IN PARIS
Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew living in Paris, shoots Ernst vom Rath, a diplomat attached to the German embassy in Paris. Grynszpan apparently acts out of despair over the fate of his parents, who are trapped along with other Polish Jewish deportees in a no-man’s-land between Germany and Poland. The Nazis use the shooting to fan antisemitic fervor, claiming that Grynszpan did not act alone, but was part of a wider Jewish conspiracy against Germany. Vom Rath dies two days later.
NOVEMBER 9, 1938
JOSEPH GOEBBELS DEMANDS RADICAL ACTION
German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels delivers a passionate antisemitic speech to the Nazi party faithful in Munich. The party members are gathered in commemoration of the abortive Nazi Putsch of 1923 (Adolf Hitler’s first attempt to seize power). After the speech, Nazi officials order the Storm Troopers (SA) and other party formations to attack Jews and to destroy their homes, businesses, and houses of worship. The violence against Jews lasts into the morning hours of November 10th, and becomes known as Kristallnacht--the "Night of Broken Glass." Several dozen Jews lose their lives and tens of thousands are arrested and sent to concentration camps.
NOVEMBER 12, 1938
NAZIS FINE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The Nazi state imposes a fine of one billion Reichsmarks($400,000,000) on the Jewish community in Germany. Jews are ordered to clean up and make repairs after the pogrom. They are barred from collecting insurance for the damages. Instead, the state confiscates payments owed by insurers to Jewish property holders. In the aftermath of the pogrom, Jews are systematically excluded from all areas of public life in Germany.
New York Times
A newspaper report about the Night of Broken Glass: A newspaper report published on November 11 1938 which proves that the Night of Broken Glass was being reported on throughout the world, though no official protest was ever received in Germany
After the Night of Broken Glass
Fleeing Nazi Germany for St. Louis
By Thomas SingerTwo-year-old Thomas Singer's 1938 passport. Courtesy of Thomas Singer.
On November 7, 1938, Ernst van Rath, third secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, was shot and mortally wounded by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Jewish boy, in retaliation for the treatment of his parents, who were among the 17,000 Polish Jews forced by the Nazis to leave Germany. The shooting in Paris provided the Nazis with an opportunity to incite the Germans to “rise in bloody vengeance against the Jews.”
On November 9 and November 10, 1938, the Nazi storm troopers carried out a large pogrom against the German Jews. Nearly 200 synagogues were burned down while local fire departments stood by.
Jewish cemeteries were desecrated, thousands of Jews physically abused, about 100 Jews murdered, and 30,000 Jewish men between 18 and 65 years of age arrested and placed in concentration camps.
More than 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, and thousands of Jewish homes were damaged and ransacked. The shattered glass from the windows of Jewish homes and businesses gave the pogrom the name of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night or Night of Broken Glass).
[Material in the above paragraphs was taken from the website of Aish Hatorah (aish.com) by the author]Young Singer with his parents, Rudolf and Elsbeth. Courtesy of Thomas Singer.
The Nazis came for my father on the night of November 9, 1938, in Stuttgart. Fortunately, he received a warning and was able to hide in the house of a cousin who was married to a Christian man who was an important executive with the Reichbahn (railroad).
My mother met up with my father and they got tickets to fly Lufthansa to Marseille, France, and then went to the bank and withdrew all their money. They could only take ten marks out of the country, so they were planning to give the rest of the money to my father's parents and Aunt Dora [father’s sister].
Our Uncle Curt Weill, the child of grandmother Flora Stern's sister, was a very wealthy man who made his fortune in the coal business.
He was living in Nice, France, and he called the French Embassy and was able to get us permission to be in France for one week. My mother went to the French Embassy in Stuttgart and picked up the visas. My parents called a friend who owned a large luggage store and he personally brought them some luggage. My mother had to pack the bags herself since the Gentile maid quit that day. They contacted a Christian lawyer who was their friend, and he took over our assets and made arrangements for the family furniture and household goods to go to the United States.
Next morning, November 10, 1938, my mother called for a taxi to take us to the airport. Meanwhile my father was still in hiding from the Nazis. When the taxi came to take my mother and me to the airport, the upstairs neighbor, who was a Nazi, called the Gestapo and physically tried to stop us from leaving. The cab driver, who was a good man, picked me up (I was two and a half), told the Nazi neighbor to leave this mother and child alone, and put us in his cab with the luggage. As we were driving away we could see the Gestapo coming toward our house.
We drove quickly to say goodbye to Dora, Karoline, and Berthold Singer [grandparents] and gave them the money taken out of the bank. The Nazis had just arrested a Jewish lawyer in that same building.
(Later, Berthold and Karoline Singer were able to get to Lisbon. Aunt Dora escaped to London by becoming a domestic helper, or maid. She married her employer, Carl Cohn, who was a wealthy man in Germany, and she died in London.)
We met my father at the airport. The plane, a small ten-passenger plane owned by Lufthansa, was delayed one hour. My parents were afraid the Nazis would find us. It turned out that it really was mechanical problems and the plane flew to Marseille with no trouble. My parents had no money, and when I asked for milk, the passengers on the plane gave them some money to buy me milk.Elsbeth Singer's passport. The red "J" identifies the holder as Jewish. Courtesy of Thomas Singer.
Uncle Curt Weill sent his limousine to Marseille to take us to Nice. We stayed in a nice hotel in Nice, and his chauffeur took us to the beach and even bought me some clothes.
Even though Uncle Curt contacted the mayor of Nice, who was his good friend, he was unable to extend our time beyond one week. After one week in Nice we took the train to Paris. We stayed overnight with Jean Weill, who was the son of Grandmother Flora Stern's sister—Sally Weill.
We then took the train to Rotterdam and stayed for one week in a refugee house with others fleeing the Nazis. Our ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam, sailed on December 8, 1938. My father sent a Western Union telegram to Wallace Rindskopf [the family’s sponsor in St. Louis] that we would arrive in New York on December 14, 1938.
My parents had a beautiful first-class cabin. It was a very rough crossing, and my mother was sick most of the time. It did not bother me or my father, and we ate together in the first-class dining room (I refused to eat with the children in a special room). Most of the cruise customers in first class were going on a South American cruise and commented on how well I behaved at dinner. One of the couples gave me a charm for good luck.
We arrived in New York on December 15, 1938, and were met by Lotte and Werner Steinthal and their one-year-old son. They took us to their small apartment in Kew Gardens, New York City. My father wrote Wallace Rindskopf explaining the delay in arrival.Click on letter to enlarge Wallace Rindskopf encouraged Rudolf Singer to come to St. Louis, where he "might meet with better success." Courtesy of Thomas Singer.
We were living with four adults and two children in two rooms. My father looked for work in New York but was not able to find anything. My mother worked as a maid for a short time.
Mr. Rindskopf sent Mr. Nathan Rosenthal and Mr. Buell to meet with my parents [in New York], and in a letter of January 9, 1939, it was reported to Mr. Rindskopf that “They are a very fine couple and have a very fine son about three years old.”
With that endorsement, Rudolph Singer arrived in St. Louis on the Pennsylvania train by himself on Sunday, January 29, 1939, at 12:40 p.m.
The sponsors, Wallace and Bobbie Rindskopf, lived at 7391 Norwood Avenue in University City, Missouri. They had a small basement room for my father. Meanwhile my mother and I stayed [in New York] with the Steinthals and Lotte’s father, the lawyer Alfred Gunzenhauser.The Singer family's sponsors in St. Louis, Bobbie and Wallace Rindskopf. Courtesy of Thomas Singer.
One week later, my mother and I took the same train to St. Louis to join my father. The three of us slept in the small basement bedroom for about two weeks. We had our meals with Wallace and Bobbie Rindskopf and their children, Wallace, Jr., who was a medical student, and Jean, who was a senior in high school.
The grandmother, Schloss, lived with them and also their full-time maid, Emma. My mother said they spoiled me because I was a “cute blond boy with blue eyes.” Since I could speak only German, they could not understand me and I kept telling them, “Ou bist dumm” (you are stupid). It was too crowded for us to stay in the small basement room, so after two weeks the Rindskopfs helped us to move. They found a furnished attic apartment at 5840 Columbia Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri. They rented it for ten dollars a month from a widow, Mrs. Schneider. There was no kitchen and we had to use Mrs. Schneiders’s, which was difficult. There was a large garden. and my mother had some of the German immigrants for coffee and cake in the afternoon as they did in Germany.
In February 1939, my parents were contacted by Otto Reinemund, who was given our address by Anneliese Levi, his cousin and the daughter of Arthur Levi [Levi had cared for Singer’s mother as a child after her own mother died at age 30]. Before 1938, he lived in Munich, Germany, and his parents had an estate next to the August Busch estate. He was able to come to St. Louis and worked for the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Further, he was very active in the local Jewish community and dated the daughters of the Rice, Baer, and Wohl families.Tom and his father on the stoop of the Newberry Terrace apartment, 1939. Courtesy of Thomas Singer.
On my third birthday, March 1, 1939, my parents had dinner at the Rice Estate (now Oak Knoll Park) at Big Bend and Clayton Road in Clayton. Emma, the Rindskopfs’ maid, was my babysitter. Otto Reinemund had obtained the invitation and among the guests were Carlyn and David Wohl of the Wohl Shoe Company (now Brown Shoe Company).
The Wohls liked my parents, and David Wohl gave my father a job as a bookkeeper, and he worked there for thirty years. Carlyn Wohl found us an apartment at Newberry Terrace, which cost $25 a month. Mrs. Wohl and her chauffeur helped us move from the attic apartment to the five-room flat. Fortunately the furniture then arrived from Germany. There were several German Jewish refugees who lived in the neighborhood and they all tried to help each other.
happened to be on the date six years after we left Stuttgart for France.
Tom, ca. 1940. Courtesy of Thomas Singer.
On November 10, 1944, we appeared before a federal judge and were sworn in as naturalized citizens, which
appened to be on the date six years after we left Stuttgart for France.
I am very thankful to become an American and live in this country. Also, I am very grateful for my loving wife, three children, and six grandchildren. Further, I strongly feel this history of our family’s journey to America needed to be written and preserved for future generations or it will be forgotten.
On loan from Jacob Wiener (Zwienicki), Silver Spring, Maryland, USHMM
Selma Zwienicki was one of 5 Jews in Bremen who were killed during Kristallnacht. She was shot by SA stormtroopers when she refused to reveal the whereabouts of her husband. Her death certificate (below) hides the true cause of death; it states only that she was found dead.
After~Iwan van Oosten
The Holocaust, known in Hebrew as Shoah, is the most tragic period of Jewish Diaspora history and indeed of modern mankind as a whole. Twelve years of Nazi-German anti-Jewish Aktion (1933-1945) constitute an uninterrupted progression toward a continued increasing radicalization of objectives and barbarization of methods in constantly expanding territories under direct Nazi control or under decisive Nazi influence to the accompaniment of vicious, sometimes obscene anti-Jewish propaganda. Consequences of the Holocaust are of decisive significance for the Jewish present and future: those consequences are still evident now and will be experienced for generations to come.
Encyclopedia Judaica, Bk. 8, page 831
Hans in 1942
Hans in 2002
My memories of the war years are quite unpleasant. I have successfully managed to block out part of the past that deals with my childhood years. I try to remember, and when I do I see mostly still pictures before me. However, I vividly remember the following episode involving one of my friends. I was thirteen years old at the time. My family and I lived in Assen in the north of the Netherlands and the year was 1943.
I was eleven when war broke out. I was not even a teenager yet. Nazi occupation of my home town became dreadful reality on 10 May 1940 when the first Nazi troops reached our town. I grew up in the town of Assen. It is the capital of Drente, a province in the northeast corner of the Netherlands. Until then the town had been quiet and serene. Occupation was immediate. It took five long years of Nazi oppression before liberation finally came. Assen was liberated by the Canadian army on 13 April 1945. I had turned sixteen on the 5th of February.
While attending grade school and the early years of high school I had three close friends. The foursome was made up of George Manak, Piet Tielrooy, Iwan van Oosten and myself, Hans van der Werff.
Iwan van Oosten,
We were a close-knit group. George's father owned and operated a house painting business. George passed away shortly after the war at the very young age of nineteen.
Piet Tielrooy was the son of an army colonel who spent the war years in a German POW camp. Piet became a school teacher. His picture can be seen on the left which was taken during war time.
Piet passed away at the age of fifty-four. The picture of George was sent to me by his nephew Max Manak for which I am very grateful. However, my story concerns itself with my third friend, Israel Berty van Oosten. However, we knew him by his common name, Iwan (pronounced Eewan). Iwan's grandfather, Jonas van Oosten, had opened and operated a bedding and furniture store in Assen.
The large storefront in the middle was De Walvisch located on the Gedempte Singel in Assen. The lower storefront to the far left was the small candy store of Mrs. Nathalie Fischler-Blok. The families resided above the stores. The unique moving van of De Walvisch can be seen in the foreground. The van was bright orange in color drawing quite the attention.
Iwan's father, Machiel (Mau), and his unmarried brother Maurits (Mie) took over the business after Jonas retired. The store affectionately was called "de Walvisch - the Whale" after the Bible story of "Jonah and the great fish" by most town people. Certainly no harm was intended considering the similarity between his name and that of the prophet Jonah in the Biblical story. The sad story of the van Oosten family follows here below.
(l to r) : Aunt Hester Hendrina, born 26 November 1905 in Assen. Perished in Birkenau on 29 October 1942. Grandma Gonda van Oosten-Godschalk, born 31 August 1871 in Roden, perished in Birkenau on 8 October 1942. Uncle Maurits (Mie), born 26 November 1901 in Assen, perished on 28 February 1943 in Birkenau.
Grandpa Jonas van Oosten, the founder of "De Walvisch," was born on 2 September 1865 in Assen also perished in Birkenau on 8 October 1942. Uncle Abraham, born 24 April 1897 in Assen, died before the war on 2 February 1937 in Assen. Last, Iwan's father Machiel (Mau). He was born on 22 April 1899. He perished in Birkenau on 11 January 1943.
Iwan's mother was Johanna (Jo) van Oosten-Jakobs. No picture of her is available at this time. She was born 27 May 1902 in Emmen and perished in Birkenau on 24 September 1943 together with her two youngest sons Iwan and Maunie.
Iwan, whose Hebrew name was Israel Berty, was born on 27 December 1927. That Iwan was born Jewish was not an issue with us teens. All that changed on 2 May 1942, the day when Dutch Jews over the age of five were singled out by the Nazis to wear the humiliating yellow star which openly exposed and branded them. The first year and a half of the war Iwan attended our public school, but new directivescoming from the Nazis changed that also. Even so, we continued to see each other after school time.
Gradually we were also robbed of this small pleasure. The Nazis placed severe restrictions on the lives of the Jewish people. And, to a lesser extent on those not born Jewish as well. The Nazis introduced a detested curfew which no longer allowed Jews to be outside their home between 8 PM and 6 AM. This curfew was imposed upon all Dutch citizens later on in the war as well.
On 2 October 1942 Iwan excitedly told us that he and his family and all other Asser Jews were going on a long journey. He was nervous about that voyage because it involved the entire Jewish community of Assen. First they had to relocate to a transit camp near Assen called Westerbork. None of us had any idea that it not only affected the local community but all the Jews of Holland. In a macabre sense we anticipated that journey with him. We talked at length about it with each other. We had no idea what the journey was about or where it would lead. No one really knew. But we had a sinister foreboding that it was going to be an unpleasant journey. Especially because of the uncertainties attached to the ominous Nazi order.
The Jews of Holland had been deceived. They were led to believe that they were settling some- where in Poland. But why Poland? Could they not have stayed in Holland? Poland was so far away. Of course we had read stories about Poland in the newspaper because of the war. We were familiar with Nazi propaganda pictures. We were fed a biased newspaper account of initial Nazi victories on the Eastern front. Then what was the purpose of relocating Jewish people there, resettling them? Resettling them for what? That burning question would remain unanswered for almost three years.
The Jewish population of Assen was not subjected to large-scale razzia's - round-ups like in other major cities of the Netherlands. A simple written order from the SD office in Assen, in cooperation with the local police usually sufficed. Whoever did not respond to the call-up notice was arrested by the Asser police and transported to Westerbork.
I remember the day when the Jewish population of Assen received orders to report to the railroad station. The appointed place of assembly was near a side-track of the railroad station where cattle cars waited to bring the hapless ones to Westerbork. Prior to this, the van Oosten family first had received instruction to vacate their home and business to make room for a German representative who simply took over the business.
They had to leave their home immediately without taking any of their belongings with them. Initially they received temporary housing with various Jewish families until some horse stables located at the rear of the tavern owned by Boele Geerts, the interior of which is shown in the picture on the right, were cleared and cleaned. It was there that the family found a temporary roof over their heads. It was a dark and eerie pathway that led toward those stables. Piet Tielrooy and I visited Iwan at this foreboding place even though it was forbidden to make contact with him. I suppose two thirteen years olds did not pose a threat
The van Oosten family did not remain in those stables very long. We learned that one evening they suddenly had disappeared. A friend, who had risked his life visiting them, found the doors to the stable ajar. The evening meal was still on the table, untouched.
After the war it was learned that the family was brought to the Jewish cemetery in Assen with the help of Boele Geerts, the inn-keeper, and Willem Hofstee, the coffin manufacturer. A picture dating back to 1937 of Mr. Boele Geerts is shown on the left below the picture of Jonny, Iwan and Maunie. The family was secretly driven from the Jewish cemetery by car to Hindelopen, a small town in the province of Friesland.
Unfortunately, not long afterwards they were betrayed, captured, and incarcerated. Mother Jo was sent to camp Westerbork with her two youngest sons, Iwan and Maunie. Maunie was quite ill at the time as I learned from a letter Mother Jo had thrown out of the moving train intended for her cousin, the family Redeker. In it she writes: "train at half past ten (in the morning), 21 September (1943). Dear family, This is the end. We are going. Weak, but full of courage. Thank you for everything.
We received the parcels. My poor children. Very nervous. Maunie looks drawn and has to throw up. He no longer runs a fever. We lay with 25 ill people on the floor (of the cattle car). My little darlings are next to me. We have enough food to eat. Thank you very much. Greetings and a kiss for all the family. We are full of courage. Finder, please deposit this letter in a mailbox.
" Father Mau, uncle Mie, and Iwan's older brother Jonny were first sent to the notorious concentration camp of Amersfoort. Westerbork records indicate that the whole family was deported to Birkenau were all perished. Jonny is still officially listed as missing.
Jonny, Iwan, and Maunie in 1935
Mr. Boele Geerts, 1937.
Photo Mrs. Henny Hatzmann
After the war in Europe had ended we heard for the first time that atrocities had been committed. Not only against Jews, against other minorities of Europe's subdued nations as well. We were aghast at the viciousness with which these atrocities had been carried out. Slowly we became aware of the unthinkable truth regarding the ultimate measures that were put in motion to systematically carry out the extermination of the Jews. This particular ethnic cleansing is known today as the Holocaust.
Next-door to the van Oosten family lived the Fischler family. They had two children. A boy and a girl. Everyone knew the shy little girl as Jettie. After the war I learned that her real name was Harriette Mia Fischler. The following anecdote from a former classmate will give you a wonderful insight into the sensitive nature of this child. Jettie was born on 28 August 1928.
I did not know her as well as I knew Iwan. On the other hand I knew her Mom, Mrs. Nathalie Esterina Fischler-Blok, very well. Of course not by name, but I knew her as the nice lady who sold candy and licorice in her candy store. I do not remember ever meeting Jettie's father, Isak Szymon Fischler, nor do I remember what he did for a living. All school kids knew Mrs. Fischler because of the candy store. The small candy store was next door to the larger furniture and bedding store belonging to Iwan's father.
Some candy could still be bought in the first year of the war. However, her supplies dwindled steadily and with that her income. Her store drew the attention of most school children. We would buy sweets worth half a cent before going to school or Sunday school. It was obvious to the town people that the Fischler family was not as well off as were their neighbors, the van Oosten family.
Because her supply of candies gradually ran out it was more difficult for Jettie's mother to properly dress her children. Perhaps that was the reason why Jettie's clothing appeared more ragged than that of other kids. But believe me, Mrs. Fischler did her utmost to always have Jettie and her younger brother Leo Salomon look decent and clean.
My friend, Piet Tielrooy, and I went to the train station the day the Jews of Assen and surrounding area were first sent by train to Westerbork in anticipation of further 'relocation' to the East. There we observed the hustle and bustle of scores of local Jewish people trying to secure a place of privacy in one of the waiting cattle cars. Families tried to maintain some sort of semblance of togetherness in an otherwise chaotic situation.
Thinking back I wonder where the Nazi guards were or if there were SSers at all. We saw marechaussee - local constables, but I do not remember seeing Nazi soldiers. Were they out of sight or were they just hiding? Perhaps their departure, supervised by Dutch constables, went so smooth that the Nazis felt no need for a stricter guarding policy on the side rail platform of our local railroad-station. Whatever the reason, no one appeared to object to us being around.
I recognized several families as they noisily milled around. I really was not surprised to see these sad scenes of mistrust and anxiety. Fear radiated from some of the faces, while others displayed apathy. In particular I remember watching Jettie Fischler. Huddling in the left corner of the platform, she and her younger brother Leo pressed closely to their mother.
Jettie's eyes mirrored fear. It was the last time I saw them. Together with all the others Jettie and her brother also were torn from our midst forever. Her father Isak perished somewhere in Poland on 6 October 1942, perhaps during the trip while riding in the same cattle car as his family. Mrs. Fishler and her two children were exterminated in Birkenau on arrival, two days later. Their lives were taken on 8 October 1942.
After the war my wife and I returned to the Netherlands and visited what is left of Transit camp Westerbork. Iwan and Jettie were incarcerated in this camp until one day one of the death trains took them to Birkenau also.
Today the former transit camp serves as a memorial, a permanent reminder of the ninety three trains that left Westerbork for two of the several extermination sites located in Poland, Birkenau and Sobibor. Jettie and her brother Leo were deported together with their parents. They left on one of the earlier transports for Birkenau. The date was 5 October 1942. Mrs. Fischler and her children died in Birkenau.
For them the date of death entered into the camp journal is 8 October 1942. Mr. Fischler must have died en route in the cattle car because his date of death is listed as 6 October 1942. Between 15 July 1942 and 3 September 1944 a total of sixty five trains left for Auschwitz II, Birkenau. An additional nineteen cattle car trains left for Sobibor, yet another extermination camp in Poland. Jewish inmates on the remaining trains were shipped to Theresienstadt and Bergen-Belsen respectively.
Loading the young and old
The SS made sure!
They are gone!
No less than 104,000 Dutch Jews passed through transit camp Westerbork. Only 854 deportees sur- vived the ordeal of Auschwitz/Birkenau. I received documentation that Iwan and his younger brother Maurits (Mauni) were deported together with their mother Jo. Records discovered after the war indicate that all three perished on 23 September 1943.
Their deportation train number for Birkenau was # 55. Father Machiel (Mau) had been deported earlier, perhaps on train # 50. He perished on 28 February 1943 as camp records indicate. Iwan's older brother Jonas (Jonny) is listed as missing. Meticulously kept records were the pride and joy of camp commandant Gemmeker and his efficient staff. These records included the number of transports, the number of victims on each transport, and their ultimate destination. Also the camp population was recorded for any given date. People were listed by family name, by first name, by domicile, by date of birth, by occupation, and by date of departure. Finally also by the date of death following arrival at either Birkenau or Sobibor, or another place of evil for that matter. According to official camp records none of the van Oosten family nor any of the Fischlers survived.
It is difficult to forget Jettie's face as she pressed against her mom at the Umschlagplatz - Gathering Place that particular afternoon. It inspired me to write a poem about her. However, that poem really is about all the Jewish children who were deported, exterminated, or in any other way suffered immensely at the hands of the Nazis.
Amongst the millions was her place.
As darkness leaned against her face,
her pleading eyes reached out in vain.
She suffered much and felt the pain.
While cruel hands they pushed and tore,
she hoped for mercy. As she wore
her ugly garment, death so nigh.
Her silence screams and I cry, why?
And the prayer on every lip
repeated by each heart: "I believe.
Yes I believe, that though he tarry ...
yet will he come." Even so come!
Our daughter Mirjam, an accomplished musician, singer and composer, put these words to music. Mirjam recorded the song on her third album, which is entitled: "Take Heart." Emotionally it still effects me, even to this day, when I think of the six million who are no more and all those who could have been yet are not.
There remains one final note to this drama. On one of our trips back home Vonnie and I visited the store Iwan's father once built and owned. The location of the store is the same. True to tradition the present owner still sells bedding and furniture. No doubt he continued to build on the excellent reputation once held by the former proprietor, Jonas van Oosten. Our hearts were filled with expectation as we entered the store. I had hoped to find answers to the question burning in my heart: Did any of the van Oosten family survive? If so, was Iwan one of them? This was the cold response I received:
Anger rose up within me when I heard those chilling words. I went outside for fresh air and wondered, has anything changed? Clearly, for some it had not.
I often think of Iwan with whom I shared many of my boyhood adventures. In my mind I again walk the final steps with him wishing I could somehow alter the course of history. Alas, I fail in this. I remain while Iwan, Jettie and all the others are no more.
Together with my wife Vonnie I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau in the summer of 1997. Quietly we stood in Auschwitz II, camp Birkenau, near the gas chambers and crematoria where Iwan and Jettie were murdered. It finally brought closure to a painful memory out of my youth as I now had the opportunity to recite Kaddish for Iwan and Jettie and for many of Assen's finest citizens.
Czestochowa. Jewish Cemetery Devastated by the Nazis.
Old Synagogue in the Town of Orle Devastated by the Nazis.
Destruction of Synagogues
Destruction of Synagogues on Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass,
November 9, 1938.
Legend: Cities where synagogues were destroyed.
Nearly 200 synagogues were set afire on November 9, 1938, in an officially orchestrated evening of widespread violence and vandalism of Jewish property. In addition to the burning of synagogues, Jewish businesses and shops were severely vandalized throughout Germany. Josef Goebbels, the propaganda minister under Adolf Hitler, masterminded this Night of Broken Glass.
Joachim Schneeweiss A. M., b. 1927, Hanover, Germany. Immigrated to Australia 1939.
“Life in Germany prior to the advent of the Nazis was full of richness; full of cultural and historical tradition; full of Jewishness. It was altogether a most important element of world Jewry and all this was to be destroyed in the vengeful, murderous excesses of the Nazis who declared war on the Jewish people at Kristallnacht, ultimately leading to the death chambers of Treblinka and Auschwitz.”
l) Joachim Schneeweiss with his sister Rita in 1931
c) Joachim Schneeweiss in the Australian Air Training Corps in 1943
r) Joachim Schneeweiss A. M. today
Below is one of a series of letters that was received by Jewish institutions in Australia during 1998
Lynda Ben-Menashe, b. 1964, Sydney, Australia.
Lynda Ben-Menashe, b. 1964, Sydney, Australia.
"I was born in Australia in 1964 and have lived here almost all of my life. I think my experiences are quite typical of those of many Australian Jews of my generation. I would never call Australia an antisemitic country; far from it, I feel that it is one of the most peaceful and ethnically tolerant societies in the world. But that is not to say that antisemitism does not exist here.
I grew up in what is usually described as a very affluent suburb on Sydney's North Shore and attended only public schools. The ethnic mix of these schools was mainly white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, but there were some Southern Europeans, Hong Kong Chinese and Jews; Jews made up about 20% of the school population.
The first experience of antisemitism I had was in Year 1 (1970), when at Christmas time I asked the teacher if our class might learn some Chanukah songs in addition to the obligatory Christmas carols. (Chanukah is a Jewish festival of freedom which occurs around Christmas time most years.) The teacher agreed, but apparently some of the parents did not and there was a huge outcry that their Christian children should not be exposed to any 'foreign' culture.
When I was about 8 I stopped going to the local Brownie Guides. It had been Mothers' Day and we were making presents for our mothers which were a bar of soap with pins stuck in it in the shape of a cross. I had asked if I could stick my pins in the shape of a Star of David and a deathly silence had fallen. 'No,' I was told, 'You can only make a cross.' After this incident, a classmate informed me that she was no longer allowed to be my friend. Her parents had told her that 'all Jews have black hearts.' If you wonder how I can remember the words so clearly, just imagine the impression they would have made on a child of that age.
In my first term at High School, Year 7, 1976 one day a boy just attacked me, physically, with an umbrella, screaming that I was a Jew. I was the youngest and smallest student in the year; I'd never seen this boy before, a big fat boy who had swastikas painted on his bags and books. There was some response from the school, I don't remember what, but I do remember that all the Jewish boys in our year beat him up and that shut him up for a few years.
I was elected School Captain in Year 12, and coincidentally the boy captain was Jewish too. So surely that was a sign that there was no antisemitism. But the entire year, I don't think one week went by when the box for letters to the prefects from other students didn't contain one or more antisemitic letters. 'Kill the Jews' 'We hate you all' Scrawled drawings of the boy captain and I with nooses around our necks. And on the day our HSC (matriculation exams) began, we arrived at school to find it covered with horrible graffiti, swastikas, 'Hitler didn't kill enough'.
It must sound strange, but what I recall is a really wonderful school life with lots of friends, only two or three of them Jewish. But I heard the message loud and clear and it was: 'You are not one of us, no matter how much a part of this society you think you are.' I think I just accepted that that was how things were, and it only made my resolve in my own identity stronger.
At university I joined and became active in the Union of Jewish Students. In 1982 I was part of a group who toured our state, debating 'anti-Zionist' groups about Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Many of us Jewish students were either opposed to or very ambivalent about that war, but the antisemitism of the campus presses had prompted us to defend Israel in principle. Seeing the image of then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin depicted in SS uniform leaning over a globe, with blood dripping from his hands was something we just could not ignore. We felt we couldn't let plain, simple, ugly antisemitism be disguised as 'anti-Zionism'; especially not in such vicious terms, with that blatant depiction of Begin, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, as a Nazi.
I knew I could only marry someone Jewish, not only because I wanted to, but also because I felt sure no non-Jewish man would be interested in me. When non-Jewish boys from Uni asked me out I was always shocked. I would go, but feeling a fraud, as if they didn't realise that they had made a terrible mistake; they couldn't possibly have known I was Jewish or they wouldn't have asked me.
Anyway, I married: an Israeli Jew, and we have lived both in Israel and here in Australia. And there I feel at home but alien in some ways, and here I do as well. In Israel I am referred to as an 'Anglo-Saxon'! How bizarre. And our children speak Hebrew and are getting a far better formal Jewish education than I had. But I wonder, will their Jewish identities be as strong as mine is if they don't experience the antisemitism I did? There's the real irony."
These have bold headlines and long detailed accounts of KRYSTALLNACHT, the "night of broken glass" in Nazi ruled Germany.
ALBERT EINSTEIN to leave Nazi Germany
the Baltimore Sun (MD) dated Mar 18, 1933.
Front page heading and long report that a Berlin newspaper in NAZI ruled GERMANY has acclaimed the decision of Jewish scientist ALBERT EINSTEIN to leave Nazi Germany to settle in the US. Interesting that the Nazis also barred Jewish Medical Doctors from practicing in German hospitals at that time !!
Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics, and one of the most prolific intellects in human history. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect". The latter was pivotal in establishing quantum theory within physics. Einstein published more than 300 scientific papersalong with over 150 non-scientific works. His great intelligence and originality have made the word "Einstein" synonymous with genius.
In 1933, Einstein decided to emigrate to the United States due to the rise to power of the Nazisunder Germany's new chancellor, Adolf Hitler. While visiting American universities in April, 1933, he learned that the new German government had passed a law barring Jews from holding any official positions, including teaching at universities. A month later, the Nazi book burnings occurred, with Einstein's works being among those burnt, and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbelsproclaimed, "Jewish intellectualism is dead." Einstein also learned that his name was on a list of assassination targets, with a "$5,000 bounty on his head". One German magazine included him in a list of enemies of the German regime with the phrase, "not yet hanged".
Einstein was undertaking his third two-month visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology when Hitler came to power in Germany. On his return to Europe in March 1933 he resided in Belgium for some months, before temporarily moving to England.
He took up a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, an affiliation that lasted until his death in 1955. There, he tried to develop a unified field theory and to refute the accepted interpretation of quantum physics, both unsuccessfully. He and Kurt Gödel, another Institute member, became close friends. They would take long walks together discussing their work. His last assistant was Bruria Kaufman, who later became a renowned physicist.
Other scientists also fled to America. Among them were Nobel laureates and professors oftheoretical physics. With so many other Jewish scientists now forced by circumstances to live in America, often working side by side, Einstein wrote to a friend, "For me the most beautiful thing is to be in contact with a few fine Jews—a few millennia of a civilized past do mean something after all." In another letter he writes, "In my whole life I have never felt so Jewish as now."
Julius Streicher (1885-1946)
Member of the Nazi Party from 1921 and party leader (Gauleiter) in the district of Franken.Streicher founded the anti-Semitic tabloid, Der Stürmer, and to many represented the personified anti-Semitism. Streicher became a member of the Reichstag in 1933 and in the same year organised the boycott of Jewish businesses.
He was one of the Nazi Party’s most radical members and in this capacity one of the men responsible for the wording of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. Streicher’s role in the persecution of the Jews was focused on whipping up anti-Semitic sentiments in the German population. In spite of never having participated directly in the extermination of the Jews,
Streicher was sentenced to death at the Allies’ war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg and executed.
Julius Streicher made his melodramatic appearance at 2:12 a.m.
While his manacles were being removed and his bare hands bound, this ugly, dwarfish little man, wearing a threadbare suit and a well-worn bluish shirt buttoned to the neck but without a tie (he was notorious during his days of power for his flashy dress), glanced at the three wooden scaffolds rising menacingly in front of him. Then he glanced around the room, his eyes resting momentarily upon the small group of witnesses. By this time, his hands were tied securely behind his back. Two guards, one on each arm, directed him to Number One gallows on the left of the entrance. He walked steadily the six feet to the first wooden step but his face was twitching.
As the guards stopped him at the bottom of the steps for identification formality he uttered his piercing scream: 'Heil Hitler!'
The shriek sent a shiver down my back.
As its echo died away an American colonel standing by the steps said sharply, 'Ask the man his name.' In response to the interpreter's query Streicher shouted, 'You know my name well.'
The interpreter repeated his request and the condemned man yelled, 'Julius Streicher.'
As he reached the platform, Streicher cried out, 'Now it goes to God.' He was pushed the last two steps to the mortal spot beneath the hangman's rope. The rope was being held back against a wooden rail by the hangman.
Streicher was swung suddenly to face the witnesses and glared at them. Suddenly he screamed, 'Purim Fest 1946.' [Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrated in the spring, commemorating the execution of Haman, ancient persecutor of the Jews described in the Old Testament.]
The American officer standing at the scaffold said, 'Ask the man if he has any last words.'
When the interpreter had translated, Streicher shouted, 'The Bolsheviks will hang you one day.'
When the black hood was raised over his head, Streicher's muffled voice could be heard to say, 'Adele, my dear wife.'
At that instant the trap opened with a loud bang. He went down kicking. When the rope snapped taut with the body swinging wildly, groans could be heard from within the concealed interior of the scaffold. Finally, the hangman, who had descended from the gallows platform, lifted the black canvas curtain and went inside. Something happened that put a stop to the groans and brought the rope to a standstill. After it was over I was not in the mood to ask what he did, but I assume that he grabbed the swinging body of and pulled down on it. We were all of the opinion that Streicher had strangled.
Physician's Photos are a Haunting Reminder of the Holocaust
The passage of a half century has done little to disturb the orderliness that reigns over the rows upon rows of meticulously stacked, catalogued, boxed and bound records currently being stored in the town of Bad Arolsen 250 miles from Berlin. The dim florescent lighting barely illuminates the rooms where floor-to-ceiling metal shelves and cabinets are laden with some 50 million aging documents and artifacts – neatly indexed file cards, worn maps and record books with handwritten entries, and yellowing stacks of papers, their official time and date stamps now faded.
Obsessed with the smallest detail, the Nazis would likely have been proud of the way this extensive collection of Holocaust documents, now kept by the International Tracing Service (ITC), have survived the passing years.
Los Angeles photographer and UCLA urologist Dr. Richard Ehrlich relished their survival for a different reason: He wanted his photographs of this vast and rarely visited repository to bear witness to the cold-blooded, dispassionate bookkeeping the Nazis employed to document the unimaginable atrocities they committed.
"I want people to see this – to know that it really happened," said Ehrlich, who gained access to the ITS archives after reading a small newspaper story four years ago about their existence. "The reason this is so important is that there are people out there who say this never existed."
Ehrlich, whose exquisite photographs of landscapes and nature have been exhibited in galleries and published in fine art books, tried unsuccessfully for the better part of a year to access the archives. But it wasn't until he decided to tap a high-ranking U.S. State Department contact that he finally gained entry.
What he found there was chilling.
"They had 50 million pieces of paper in relation to 17.5 million lives," Ehrlich said. His photographs "show this incredible, meticulous attention to detail. You wouldn't believe the things they wrote down – like the number of lice they found on people's heads. They were so anal and so compulsive about writing down everything they did."
From the files of the Gestapo, the ghettos, prison work camps and offices of Nazi authorities have come a tidal wave of records and artifacts that stretch more than 16 miles, all of it preserved by the ITC, an arm of the International Red Cross, organized to help with historical research, family reunification and refugee services. Its work is funded by the German government.
Ehrlich made two trips to Germany in 2007 where, with the help of an English-speaking guide, he searched six ITC archive buildings, including one that once was a barracks for the SS. "She pulled out documents that I never would have found because they were buried," Ehrlich recalled gratefully. Among them was a document transferring Anne Frank to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, where she died in 1945. Another was the original Schindler's list, and yet another showed carefully kept accountings of head lice. Among the papers Erlich photographed was a letter from "Heydrich" inviting participants to a discussion of the final solution of the Jewish question before breakfast was to be served.
As a photographer known for work that captures the rich colors of nature and eye-pleasing landscapes, Ehrlich found himself conflicted by his artistic instinct "to make photographs that were visually pleasing" and the ugliness of what he saw. "It was a dichotomy."
Containing 52 color, digital images, Ehrlich's portfolio of this work is now part of the public collections of Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; the Muséd'Art et d'Histoire du Jadaisme in Paris; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University; the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education; and the UCLACharles E. Young Research Library's Department of Special Collections.
For five days, an exhibition at the Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica brought crowds of people in to see his work, including survivors of the Holocaust and relatives of victims of the Nazi regime. "It was unbelievable how many people were touched by this. It has become much more of a project than I ever envisioned," the physician said.
"Dr. Ehrlich's photographs are a beautiful, haunting, and painful reminder of a terrifying past," said David Myers, professor of history and director of the Center for Jewish Studies, "not only of the Nazi efforts to exterminate European Jews, but of the cold, calculated dispassion with which they went about their murderous plans. His photographs evoke the full depths of Nazi criminality by chronicling the precision with which the murderers went about and recorded the Final Solution.They remind us of the grave danger that lurks when state power is aligned to a genocidal ideology -- and thus serve as a powerful cautionary tale for the future." On Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the UCLA Faculty Center, historians and scholars will mark the 65thanniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass" in 1938 when 92 Jews were murdered and 25,000–30,000 arrested and shipped to concentration camps. A commemorative program will feature speakers from the University of Munich and Trinity College as well as an exhibit of Ehrlich's photographs.
The program, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies with co-sponsors that include the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American & World Culture, the UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies, the Consulate General of Poland and the UCLA departments of History and Germanic Languages. For more information, see the Center for Jewish Studies website. RSVP is strongly recommended: e-mail email@example.com, or call 310-267-5327.
A book of Ehrlich's photographs of Namibia was recently published by Nazraeli Press, which will also publish in 2009 his "The Body as Art: The Art of the Body." Many of his donated photographs grace patient rooms, hallways and administrative offices of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which he photographed extensively as it was being constructed.
To see his work, go to Erlich’s website. To read more and see his photos of the medical center, see this UCLA Magazine story.
TERRE HAUTE — Seventy-two years ago, a crisp autumn night in Germany changed a family’s life forever.
“I’m just an ordinary immigrant to the United States,” Walter Sommers said while seated before about 100 people inside the Indiana Theatre. Cane in hand, the 89-year told the story of how his family came to America with the sounds of breaking glass still in their ears.
The Candles Holocaust Museum hosted Sommers for a night commemorating Kristallnacht, “The Night of the Broken Glass,” which on Nov. 9, 1938 kicked off the beginning of Nazi Germany’s Holocaust against ethnic minorities, focusing on the Jews.
Born in Germany in December of 1920, Sommers was still just 17 that evening. His family was actually from Frankfurt, but he was in Hamburg, working an apprenticeship with an import and export company there. “It was a beautiful city,” he recalled for the audience, noting the evening’s weather in Hamburg was similar to that in Terre Haute 72 years later. “Up until that point there had been discrimination against Jews in Germany, but not persecution.”
Sommers and a Christian friend were riding bicycles through town and saw the looting and violence erupting there. Windows smashed and people being beaten, both teens wondered why the police weren’t moving to stop the violence. They watched a synagogue burning to the ground, while members of the Nazi SS held firemen at bay, allowing them to only water the rooftops of neighboring homes.
Sommers explained that in Germany at the time, all citizens had to register with the local police station, and religion was one of the identifiers asked. “So that’s how they knew where all the Jews were,” he said, adding he spent that night with a neighboring family of Romanians.
He went to work the next day, but was quickly told the office wouldn’t be safe for him. His employers sent him to the docks to process cargo so the SS wouldn’t notice him. Meanwhile, he contacted his mother in Frankfurt who informed him of his father’s arrest that night before. A policeman his family had known for years came to their home that evening and allowed his mother to cook both men a quick breakfast before taking his father to the police station. There, he and other Jewish men were loaded up on rail cars and driven to the concentration camp at Buchenwald. Within a matter of days, all of the Jewish men in town had been arrested and taken to the camps.
“Now, you have to understand, there was no such thing as trial by jury or anything. They just came and picked you up,” he said.
The family immediately began working to get out of Germany. But immigration was tough and complicated back in those days, he said. The lines were long and paperwork very complex and expensive. By the time the family had arrangements made for immigration to America, friends of his father had managed to prevail upon German officials to allow his release. But, all of their money and possessions were confiscated along the way. In January of 1939, the family secured Sommers’ father’s release and immediately left for New Jersey.
Sommers eventually landed in Terre Haute, rising to the position of vice president of Meis Department stores.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boy Who Started a War
“Because my parents were Holocaust survivors, I was always reading about the Holocaust,” Greene said in an interview with the Forward. “I first noticed the reference in the mid-1980s in a book by Frank Rector called ‘Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals’ and, to be direct, I didn’t believe it. I thought someone was trying to write gay history into everything. Over time, it seemed something more credible to me.”
Greene, now the project archivist at Charleston’s Avery Institute, decided to novelize the Grynszpan affair instead of pursuing a nonfiction route. In spare, concise prose, Greene details the young man’s family life, his journey through the underbelly of Paris as a “rent boy” and the ill-fated romance between “a boy with dark, brooding eyes and olive skin” and the older, secretive, “tidy blond” German.
Greene has the affair begin in the summer of 1938 and continue until that November, when Grynszpan, whose papers were not in order, was about to be deported from France. During the course of researching and writing the novel, Greene discovered many works that openly affirmed Grynszpan’s declaration that he was gay and that he and Vom Rath were in a relationship. However, he feels that many historians try to explain it away, as if labeling Grynszpan as gay insults him and makes him less of an “innocent” victim.
Grynszpan’s fate has become one of the unsolved mysteries of World War II and the Holocaust. The last time anyone reported seeing him alive was in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in September 1942. A number of postwar sources have contended that Grynszpan survived only to resume his Paris residence after the war and to start a family, but one of Grynszpan’s original lawyers reported that he was beheaded by the Germans after his transfer into their hands in 1940.
Greene, who began writing his novelization in the late 1980s, kept close to the historical facts surrounding Grynszpan’s imprisonment but fictionalized his family background and his angst over being separated from his family. “Herschel himself is pretty much as I found him,” Greene writes in the afterword, “puzzling, annoying, contradictory, adolescent, and tragic.”
All of Grynszpan’s family survived the war except for an uncle who was murdered in Auschwitz, and Grynszpan’s sister who died in Russia, where the family took refuge. The Grynszpan family later immigrated to Israel, where they played a part in the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Herschel’s father and brother testified that all their previous efforts to find him had failed. In the late 1950s, the family petitioned the German government for a death date in order to give the family closure. Herschel Grynszpan was declared dead June 1, 1960.
Greene’s parents, Sam and Regina, survived the Holocaust in Russian work camps during World War II. They were married in June 1939, shortly before war broke out. After the war, his parents moved to Charleston, where his mother had an aunt and a first cousin.
Born in 1953, Greene was raised in Charleston, where he now lives with his partner, Jonathan Ray. Among the projects Greene has worked on locally has been to help collect and archive the experiences of Jews in South Carolina of the past 200 years, forming the basis of the Jewish archive at the College of Charleston.
In 1989, Greene lived in Chapel Hill, N.C., where his companion at the time, Olin Jolley, was starting his residency in psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. In October of that year, Jolley was diagnosed with AIDS.
“I started working on this novel right when Olin was diagnosed with AIDS,” Greene said. “Ironically, it was on Yom Kippur of 1989 that he basically went into the hospital and almost died. He subsequently lived seven years. I think that’s one thing that launched me onto this novel — and I’m certainly not comparing my experiences with Olin being sick with Holocaust experiences — but what struck me in those first few months when Olin got sick and we weren’t telling his parents was that I was leading something of a double life, pretending everything was fine but there was this devastating experience that I was going through. It struck me that this might be what someone felt who was passing at the time — a Jew pretending not to be Jewish pretending not to be going through a tragedy. Olin’s experience made me read a lot more stuff into Holocaust works and appreciate my parents’ experience much more.”
Jameson Currier is a freelance journalist and author. His most recent book is “Desire, Lust, Passion, Sex” (Green Candy Press, 2004).
Johanna Gerechter Neumann Born: 1930, Hamburg, Germany
Amid intensifying anti-Jewish measures and the 1938 Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom, Johanna's family decided to leave Germany. They obtained visas for Albania, crossed into Italy, and sailed in 1939. They remained in Albania under the Italian occupation and, after Italy surrendered in 1943, under German occupation. The family was liberated after a battle between the Germans and Albanian partisans in December 1944.
What I saw was hordes of people standing in front of a beautiful synagogue, and throwing stones through these magnificent, uh, colored windows. And, uh, as we arrived, of course we ran past the, the, the place itself, the noise, the shouting, the screaming. I suppose there was an, an aura of, of eeriness about it, because we still didn't know what was happening, but I suppose just the mere fact that so many people were there and were screaming and shouting and, and throwing stones into the, uh, stained glass windows was enough to make us run.
We arrived in school and were immediately told that our parents would pick us up, we should remain calm but there would be no school that day. And indeed a few, uh, minutes later, or half an hour later, whatever the case may be, my mother did arrive and took me to my grandmother's home where my father already was.
And here then unfolded slowly but surely the, uh, grim story of what happened during the night, that the synagogues all through Germany had been set on fire, destroyed. The, uh, Sifrei Torah [Torah scrolls] were burned in most cases.
It is known that in Hamburg people sacrificed themselves to run into the synagogue to save some of the Sifrei Torah, hide them, and I believe were successful in doing so. Um, that the, uh, Jewish stores in the center of Hamburg, in the downtown area of Hamburg, had been demolished, windows had been, uh, broken, uh, the merchandise had been thrown into the streets, covered with water and with ink and--I mean it was a, a total chaos, a total destruction.
Ernst vom Rath
Ernst Eduard vom Rath
(3 June 1909–9 November 1938)
Vom Rath was born in Frankfurt am Main, the son of a high-ranking public official. He attended a school in Breslau, and then studied law at Bonn, Munich and Königsberg, until 1932, when he joined the Nazi Party and became a career diplomat. In April 1933 he became a member of the SA, the partyparamilitary. In 1935, after a posting in Bucharest, he was posted to the German embassy in Paris.
In November 1938, vom Rath was fatally shot by a 17-year-old Polish Jewish youth, Herschel Grynszpan, who had fled from Germany to France. The reason Grynszpan chose vom Rath as his victim is not known with certainty, although it is known that he was upset over news that his family was being deported from Germany back to Poland.
Most accounts of the shooting state that Grynszpan did not ask for Rath by name but only asked to speak to a member of the diplomatic staff. Rath died of his wounds after two days. The anti-Semitic violence ofKristallnacht was launched immediately after his death.
After the killing there were claims that vom Rath was a homosexual, and that Grynszpan was intending to use this claim in his defence at the trial by implying that Rath had seduced him. Goebbels had been intending to turn the trial into Nazi propaganda about Jewish conspiracy, but the homosexuality accusations threatened to humiliate the Nazis.
Goebbels wrote that "Grynszpan has invented the insolent argument that he had a homosexual relationship with... vom Rath. That is, of course, a shameless lie; however it is thought out very cleverly and would, if brought out in the course of a public trial, certainly become the main argument of enemy propaganda."
Whether or not Rath was homosexual is not known. His brother was convicted of homosexual offences and there were allegations that vom Rath was treated for rectal gonorrhoea at the Berlin Institute of Radiology. As a result of the potential embarrassment the trial was indefinitely postponed.
Grynszpan was returned to Germany after the defeat of France in 1940 and is believed to have died in a German prison or concentration camp in 1944 or early 1945.
- 3 June 1909–9 November 1938
Passport of a Jewish woman stamped with - Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht
As early as July of 1938, the major concentration camps -- Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen -- had been readied for a large influx of Jews. Using previously prepared lists of especially influential and wealthy Jews, some 30,000 were arrested and sent to the camps.
On this November 18, 1938, formular postcard from Dachau, "preventive detention Jew Gottrf. Schwab" sent his first message to his wife, notifying her of his fate. After writing the required, "I am well and hopefully you can tell me the same thing," he urged her to "pay exact attention to the regulations on the face of the card."
‘I shall make for them a holy place.’
The word ‘Jews’ is scrawled on the exterior wall of the destroyed synagogue in Buehl. The synagogue was burned during Kristallnacht. The Hebrew inscription over the entrance reads: ‘I shall make for them a holy place.’ Buehl, Germany. Circa November 1938. — USHMM #98603, courtesy of Stadt Buehl Stadtgeschichtliches Institut
Refugees Flood into Other Nations
The Kristallnacht made German Jews realize that Germany was not a safe place for them to live in. Some fled to countires located far away from Germany, such as USA after 1939. However, many people either fled to nearby nations such as Holland and Czechoslovakia, while most remained in Germany.
Hitler encouraged emigration, expecting that the 'Jewish Problem' will become solved. He even forced people to leave Germany. However, France, Britain, and other countries did not want Jews anymore. They were also worried about local anti-semitism. France admitted 25000 Jews. Britain accpeted 80000, Latin America 40000, and USA 100000. When these countries closed their immigration doors for Jews, the Germany foreign minister remarked
"We all want to get rid of our Jews. The difficulty is that no country wishes to receive them."
British Refugee camp for the Jews during the Holocaust.
“Jews are not welcomed here,”
A motorcyclist on a village outskirts takes in a sign proclaiming “Jews are not welcomed here,”
Eye Witness Accounts
Extract from Account P. II d. 195 20 November 1938
Vienna, 20 November ‘38
My dear Otto,
You cannot imagine how things have been with us. Papa with a head-wound, bandaged, myself in bed with severe fits, everything devastated and destroyed. And the poor child had to look after us, cook, and run errands, although still in a state of serious exhaustion. It has already been nearly 14 days, and I still can’t take it in. – I have already told you that we had a similar visit on Yom Kippur, and it had a similar bloody and tragic ending.
At first I was just glad that we had survived, but when I realised that I had no dresses, no coat, and to cap it all not even a stitch of underwear any more, then I thought again that my heart would break. So that you don’t think I’m exaggerating, let me tell you that when the doctor came to bandage Papa, Rosa and Herta, all three of them bleeding copiously from head wounds, we couldn’t give him a towel or any piece of cloth to wipe the blood off his hands, so he had to leave.
My poor heart had to take in the fact that the place was so full of fragments and splinters, because all the glasses, windows and mirrors had been smashed, that we didn’t know where to turn. The day after, we were sent two shirts to put on, one for me and one for Papa. I can’t tell you how many tears I shed, we are destitute, we don’t even have the most basic clothing, we can’t even go out into the street; in any case I have no desire to do so!
But even that was not enough; two days later we were told that I had to make room at once and accommodate two more families in my flat; furthermore, I was to be ready within 3 hours. What could I do but get up and take everything from the bedroom into the dining room, and the two families, Frau Kramer with two children and Frau Terner with one child and a sick mother, moved in with me, You cannot imagine what things look like here.
With lots of love,
Your unhappy Gisa.
Extract from Account B156 Undated
The mob can be seen everywhere, looking happy; after all, they have accomplished a great feat. Families have had their homes stolen. 16 people crammed into one small room, to live in that state for three days. Everything the Jews had in the way of money and jewellery was taken away.
People did not shrink from taking the earrings from the ears of small children, or the last coin from women’s handbags. Those of my acquaintances who managed to get released from the prison could not say enough about the suffering they had had to endure; although they had been front-line soldiers in the Great War, they unanimously agreed that they had never seen such horrors. In a cellar in which the Jews were imprisoned, the following took place:
Women aged between 50 -55 were made to strip naked and dance for the men imprisoned with them; the dance was demonstrated to them by the SA. Sick women were obliged to answer the call of nature in public, in front of men and children, as there was only one WC for 200 people. Children between the ages of one month to two years received nothing to eat for two days, as they were imprisoned with their parents.
I could continue this report for hours........
A Time of Terror Accounts
As a young boy, Amitai Etzioni of Koln, Germany, witnessed the Night of Broken Glass. Born in 1929, his first childhood memory was going on a walk with his grandparents in the woods and seeing a forest fire. He remembers him and his grandparents frantically running away after seeing Hitler youth arrive to put out the fire.
He only remembers the fear in his grandparent’s eyes. He later learned that what he saw with his grandparents in the woods were actually the events of the Night of Broken Glass. His family was lucky and escaped to Palestine before Nazi soldiers made it to their city that night and before their city was deported to concentration camps.
Amitai’s family was lucky enough to escape some of the experiences from the Night of Broken Glass but Amitai will always remember the scaring things he saw in the woods....
In Bad Kreuznach, Germany, Susan Warsinger experienced the Night of Broken Glass first hand. It was the eve of her mother’s birthday (November 9, 1938) when her house was attacked. The people were only going through her house on the first floor of their building to get to the fourth floor, the Rabbi’s house. A lady in their city disguised both her and her oldest brother as her children and took them to France to escape during the Holocaust. After the Holocaust, Susan and her brother were reunited with her mother, father, and youngest brother in the United States.
Lisl Schick grew up in Vienna, Austria with her parents (an accountant and a homemaker) and her younger brother. Life as she knew it was shattered on November 9, 1938 when, in one night of terror, Nazi soldiers arrested 25,000 Jews, burned more than 900 synagogues and ransacked Jewish businesses. Kristallnacht or “The Night of Broken Glass” marked the beginning of the Holocaust, during which more than 6-million Jews died.
Schick, who was 10 at the time, and her 7-year-old brother, escaped Austria a short time later on the Kindertransport, an effort by the British government to save 10,000 Jewish children from the tyranny of the Nazis by transporting them via train to England. Ms. Schick talked about the Kindertransport in conjunction with the screening of Mark Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer’s Academy Award-winning film, Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.
Schick now lives in Largo and is very active with the Florida Holocaust Museum. She also has strong ties to UF. Her son is a graduate of the University of Florida and her grandson, Adam, currently attends UF.
Stories out of broken glass
- By Janet R Kirchheimer, November 11, 2011
This week marked the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht and the first I spent without my father.
Kristallnacht is referred to as the "night of broken glass". But it was much more than that. November 9 and 10 1938 was the beginning of the end of most of European Jewry.
In two days of Nazi-sponsored riots across Germany and Austria, about 270 synagogues were burned, 7,000 businesses and homes damaged or destroyed and 100 Jews killed. Up to 30,000 Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps.
My father was one of them. A 16-year-old living in Niederstetten, Germany, he was sent to Dachau.
He died this July and, in mourning his loss, I've thought about how the Holocaust will be remembered, or if it will be remembered at all. Survivors of the Shoah are dying each day, yet how can the next generations remember something they haven't experienced?
He told me that to get a hat in Dachau was to be lucky
One way is to tell our stories, as we do on Pesach, when we recall slavery in Egypt and liberation from bondage. Now there are Holocaust memorial services arranged by organisations working to keep the stories alive. Yet the children who are now of the age to go to these services will be the last to meet survivors. The telling of the Holocaust cannot only be for them, then. It is a duty for all of us - a part of the ongoing Jewish story.
Judaism does not want us to stand idly by. There is a midrash that says that, when the Jews left Egypt, they were afraid to cross the Red Sea. Only one man, Nachshon, marched into the water and, when it reached his nose, the sea split, allowing the people to cross. We must have the courage to jump in and contribute towards a more just society.
I don't believe we can learn "lessons" from the Holocaust - for example, that some people were good while others were evil. Six million are gone. The only lesson is to ensure that a Holocaust does not happen again. But we have an obligation to remember the victims and make certain that their stories are not lost - not just the stories of the horrors, but of their lives before the Shoah and the extraordinary efforts to rebuild after.
My father told me the story of his experiences on Kristallnacht; that his parents, brother and sister hid in the cellar all night, that his synagogue wasn't burned down because it was next to a Christian-owned building. He told me he didn't know why he was told to report to the town hall the morning after that first night. When he was arrested, the policeman said his town needed a quota of ten Jewish men. My grandfather was paying his taxes in the next room. My father was afraid he would want to take his place.
He told me he was taken away in a truck that had a sign on it urging him to "Drink Coca Cola", that he was photographed, fingerprinted, had his head shaved, examined by an SS doctor and beaten by an SS guard, then handed a cotton blue-and-white striped uniform. He told me that to get a hat was to be lucky, that one night he took the long underwear off a man who had frozen to death, that Dachau was a testing ground for the Final Solution.
He told me that a 16-year-old boy figured out that he could stay warmer by volunteering for jobs and that each Jew was designated by the Nazis as a Schutzhaftjude - protected Jew. I learnt that picking up a pair of glasses that belonged to a fellow prisoner, after he'd been beaten by an SS officer, and returning them to him was sometimes all one could do.
He said that getting caught tying newspaper around your legs to try to stay warm could get you shot by the SS, that he always had hope he would get out, that some prisoners went crazy and were killed, and that Jews had to pay for the damages done by their countrymen on Kristallnacht. He remembered every detail, "like it happened yesterday". Can you believe I still dream about it, after 70 years, he would say.
My father taught me many things: how to ride a bicycle, change a tyre, what his life was like in Germany before the Shoah and how to live after such tragedy. The most important thing he taught me was that life goes on and every day is precious. My father and I were together or spoke each year on Kristallnacht, and he told his story. It is now my turn.
Janet R Kirchheimer is a teaching fellow at the US-based National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and author of 'How to Spot One of Us', a collection of poems about the Holocaust.
Susan's Story : Nuremberg, 1938
Kristallnacht - the night of broken glass
Schooldays in Nazi Germany
Hitler came to power in l933, an event which had very little effect on the l0-year old, happy and carefree little girl I was then. We lived in Nuremberg, my life was warm and comfortable, and the events of Kristallnacht were still many years in the future.
I quite enjoyed school, we took lots of good holidays and we had lots of friends and relatives, who visited regularly. For a time, my life continued much as before. I did notice that the grown-ups around me were worried, but very little was discussed in front of the children. Our lives were to continue normally if possible. We were warned not to speak about the National Socialists, Nazis, or how they were discussed at home.
I was obviously not interested in political matters. I was to leave Junior school that year, and had to take an entrance examination for the "Lyceum", the girls' high school. My main worry was to pass that exam, and later on to adapt to the new school. I made new friends there, and did quite well, particularly in my two favourite subjects. Mathematics was one, and German - particularly writing essays - another.
However, gradually various problems arose. A difference was made between Aryan and non-Aryan children. The non-Aryan - Jewish -children were told one day to sit at the back of the class and from then on Jewish children were not allowed to join Latin lessons. We could not understand the reason and our small group of Jewish girls cheered each other by assuming that we would probably have done better than the others! The non-Jewish girls had to join the Hitler Youth. Most of them enjoyed that.
In the Hitler Youth, apart from singing and parading, they were taught all kinds of anti-Semitic things and started to hate their old friends. I was hurt and puzzled. I had not changed, so why were they not my friends any more? Gradually, only the Jewish girls were my friends. "Jew Stinker" was often shouted at us.
Whenever possible, I would shout back "I am the Jew and you are the stinker", and then I had to run away fast - if there were more of "them". In class we were in effect told that we were not allowed to have good marks. My essays were no longer read out. The reason given for that was that only a true German could be good at German.
At home, my parents tried to balance the hurt inflicted on us at school. My father spoke to us often about Jewish achievements in science, literature, music, medicine and many other fields. He pointed out the very high proportion of Jewish Nobel Prize winners, and spoke to us about the long and proud Jewish history. He managed to make us proud to be Jewish, and sometimes in spite of all the hurt which became part of daily school life, I felt quite sorry for anyone who was not Jewish.
During the summer of l938, we were told that all Jewish children had to be educated at Jewish schools. I therefore had to go to a new school, which was in Fuerth, a town attached to Nuremberg - only a road sign showed where one town ended and the other began.
I started there in the autumn term, and because emigration became an obvious necessity, even to the most optimistic Jews, I also started short courses in cooking and sewing, to enable me, if necessary, to earn a living in another country. I took these courses for a very short time only, because then came the dreadful 9th November, when my life changed dramatically.
Kristallnacht - the night of broken glass
A young Jew in Paris had killed a German diplomat. This event was used as a trigger to commence long planned raids on Jewish homes and businesses, well organised pogroms. That night I woke up to noise, shouting and screaming. About 8 young storm troopers, drunk or crazed in some other way, smashed up our home. By the time they came into the bedroom I shared with my younger sister, they had done a lot of damage to other rooms and had locked my parents into their bathroom. My parents were terrified for their children and I could hear them screaming and shouting and then I became very frightened.
I could not imagine what was happening to them. When the storm troopers came into our room, they pulled me out of bed and tore my night-dress to shreds. As a l5-year old, I was above all embarrassed. They then told me to get dressed and to get my clothes out of my wardrobe. This was of the heavy, continental type.
When I stood in front of it, the 8 young men threw it over. No doubt this was to kill me and they left the room. Luckily there was so much destruction in the room, that a table, previously turned upside down, held the wardrobe at an angle long enough for me to wriggle out from underneath. The memory of that event will stay with me forever.
My concern was also for my little sister. She had crawled under her blankets, and her bed was completely covered with broken glass, but she was all right. The men departed to do more damage in other houses, and we were able to release our parents and survey the wreck which had been our home. Our elderly maid could not believe that Hitler, whom she admired, could be responsible for anything like this! ("If only our Führer knew about this!")
A friend of mine, who was staying with us, was hiding on the balcony; she was freezing cold in her night-dress on a cold November night. She had told me the day before that she did not know whether to accept what her much loved Jewish step-father had explained about the Nazis, or what she had been told by her aunt, who was an ardent Nazi supporter and whom she had just been to visit. After that night she knew. When I took her to the station the next day, she begged me to come and stay on their farm near Munich with my family, so that no harm would come to us.
The following morning, at my father's request, I got onto my bicycle and went to check on our family friends. No one dared to use a telephone, and this was the only way to see that they had all survived. All had terrible stories to tell of events the night before. The general opinion was to get out of Nuremberg that day. The reason for this was, that Nuremberg was administered by Julius Streicher, Hitler's chief Jew baiter, and he had called a big public meeting for that evening. All sorts of dreadful things could happen after that.
My family's aim was to get to Munich, where the British Consul had told my father to come to shelter at the Consulate, if ever things got too difficult. (It would have been nice for me to know that in that town there was a l7-year old boy, who would one day be my husband). We packed a few things, and my father gave me his important papers to hide in my underwear, so that he would not be carrying them and we departed during the evening.
My father is taken to Dachau
On our approach to Munich we could see that cars leaving town were being stopped. Our driver told us not to worry, because he knew Munich quite well, and would take us in on a back street where there were not likely to be road blocks. He was wrong, we were stopped and my father was removed from the car after being asked whether he was a Jew. He was put into a lorry with other Jews who had been rounded up. As the lorry drove off, my mother gave instructions to follow it.
Eventually it pulled into the courtyard of some barracks, where although it was the middle of the night, there were people standing around jeering. As the lorry was unloaded, my mother bravely followed her husband into the building. My sister and I were tired and frightened of the aggressive mob around us. One of the storm troopers came over to us and told me to start walking back to Nuremberg, as we would not see our parents again and they were confiscating our car.
Obviously I had no idea how to walk to Nuremberg. I decided to do nothing and hoped my parents would come back soon. My mother did come back after a while. She was distressed. She had not been able to achieve anything, not even to see my father. She decided to try again the following morning and meanwhile to find a hotel for us to spend the night. She had travelled a lot with my father and knew several hotels in Munich.
At the first one, where she had stayed not long before, there was a notice at the entrance, which read "no Jews". We found that similar notices were on the doors of all other hotels we tried. It was too late at night to go to the British Consulate, and while we wondered what on earth we could do, the doorman of one hotel followed my mother to the car. He gave her the address of a small hotel belonging to his sister and a note requesting his sister to look after us.
We got there, were given a room, and we children went to sleep immediately. We woke up late and found that mother was not there. She had left us a note, to tell us that she was going back to the barracks and that we were to stay in our room. Eventually she returned. She had not been able to see my father, had not been told where he was, but was told "we will send you his ashes". In fact he was by then on his way to Dachau concentration camp.
My mother decided to take us two children to my friends' farm, and to go back to Nuremberg to see what she could do to help him. She found out that at that time one could get released from the concentration camp if one had a business or property which one signed over to the Nazi authorities. My father had both, and she prepared the necessary papers. One also needed a visa to go to another country before being released. and she worked on this with the help of friends. She tried to obtain visas for America, for England, for Palestine and maybe other countries.
After a week or two, an uncle in Switzerland sent his lawyer to collect my younger sister, so one member of the family was safe. I stayed on the farm and helped with all the work there.
Life on the farm started about 4 a.m. The farmer was a former diplomat, who found out that he was Jewish, although his family had converted to Christianity before he was born. He was not able to remain a diplomat, and therefore he and his family had settled on a farm. Everyone worked hard, but after breakfast, while his wife and daughters and I did mending or vegetable cleaning, he read serious literature to us for at least an hour.
My father was released early in December while I was still on the farm, but only after giving all his property to the Nazis. I was shocked when I saw him. In a month he seemed to have aged l0 years. His head had been shaved, and the stubble which came through, was grey instead of brown. He would not wear his hat, as he normally did. He wanted "them" to be ashamed, since he had nothing to be ashamed of, yet had been imprisoned. He told us of some of the horrific experiences of the previous month. He had always been kindly and patient, but now he was angry and nervous.
Late in December, I was called back to Nuremberg because my visa for England had arrived. There was a curfew for all Jews. We had to be indoors quite early in the evening. This became impossible for me one day, when I had to go to a medical centre in Munich to obtain a certificate my mother needed for one of the visas.
The centre, a Jewish one, was in chaos, because so many people needed certificates, inoculations etc. I had to wait for hours, and missed the train, which would have got me back to the farm before curfew. I stayed with Jewish friends in Munich, but gave my friends on the farm a lot of worry, because I was unable to let them know where I was. I believe they had no telephone.
Escape to England
My father wanted to get the family out of Germany as quickly as possible, and blamed himself for believing for such a long time that Hitler could not last. My elder sister had come back from college in Hamburg, where she had experienced none of the things we had experienced.
She and I were to leave for England as soon as possible. We had to get passports. These were stamped with a large red "J" on the first page. Our parents' papers were not ready, but they hoped to follow later. It was just a few days before Christmas l938, when we left with the two young sons of friends of my parents.
I had mixed feelings. I was very excited at the prospect of going to England, glad to leave Germany and sad to leave my parents behind. The boys' father travelled with us as far as the German/Dutch border. He too had to get his papers together before he could join his sons. Before leaving us, he talked to an Englishman on the train, who promised to keep an eye on the four of us, as soon as we had left Germany and were on our own.
We were, however, well into Holland before he came into our compartment. He explained to us, that in view of the "J"s that were printed in our passports, he did not want to be seen in our company until we were truly clear of all German border controls.
He was a businessman returning home from Vienna. In Vienna he had many Jewish friends, and he was carrying their jewellery and valuables to safety in England. As all of us were only allowed to bring l0 marks each with us, he wanted his friends to have something of value in England when they arrived.
From then on, "our" Englishman came to see us at regular intervals, and made sure we had all we needed. We crossed overnight from Hook van Holland and arrived at Harwich on December 23rd 1938, just six weeks after the dreadful events of Kristallnacht. He saw us onto and off the boat and we all travelled together on the train to London. He was also with us at immigration. I was anxious to be allowed to bring in my beloved piano-accordion.
This was much more important to me than the rest of my luggage. Our friend said some magic words to the customs officer, and the accordion case was marked as having been checked. In London he did not leave us until he had handed us over to the friends and relatives who had come to meet us. For me, he did much more than help and look after us. He made me feel really good about coming to England.
I went to stay with wonderful friends of my parents, who had left Germany some years before. Young people under l7 had to have a guarantor, as they could not apply for a work permit. Our friends had guaranteed for my upkeep, and they made me part of their family. Theirs was a happy home, and they made me feel welcome.
They were kind, and yet firm in their insistence that I had to try to shake off the nightmare of the previous month. I had brought with me the night-dress which had been ripped off me. They gently persuaded me to get rid of it and it was ceremoniously discarded.
They sent me to a college to learn English and after a few weeks I could speak and understand English and was ready for my new life. My parents were able to join us in May l939, and my younger sister arrived from Switzerland a week before the outbreak of war. We were fortunate, to be together, and to be in England. After the war we all became British citizens.
Orders to the Gestapo Regarding Kristallnacht
From Heinrich Müller to all Gestapo offices - transmitted at 11:55 p.m., November 9, 1938:
1) Actions against Jews, especially against their synagogues, will take place throughout the Reich shortly. They are not to be interfered with; however, liaison is to be effected with the Ordnungspolizei to ensure that looting and other significant excesses are suppressed.
2) So far as important archive material exists in synagogues this is to be secured by immediate measures.
3) Preparations are to be made for the arrest of about 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in the Reich. Above all well-to-do Jews are to be selected. Detailed instructions will follow in the course of this night.
4) Should Jews in possession of weapons be encountered in the course of the action, the sharpest measures are to be taken. Verfugungstruppen der SS as well as general SS can be enlisted for all actions.
Control of the actions is to be secured in every case through the Gestapo. Looting, larceny etc. is to be prevented in all cases. For securing material, contact is to be established immediately with the responsible SD...leadership. Addendum for Stapo Cologne: In the Cologne synagogue there is especially important material. This is to be secured by the quickest measures in conjunction with SD.
From Reinhard Heydrich to all Gestapo and SD district and subdistrict offices - transmitted at 1:20 a.m., November 10, 1938:
Concerning: measures against Jews in the present night.
On account of the assassination of the Leg. Sec. v. Rath in Paris, demonstrations against the Jews are to be expected throughout the Reich in the present night...
...the political leadership is to be informed that the German police have received the following instructions from the Reichsführer SS and Chief of Police, to which the measures of the political leadership should be adapted, appropriately:
a) Only such measures should be taken as will not endanger German life or property (i.e. synagogue burning only if there is no fire-danger to the surroundings).
b) Businesses and dwellings of Jews should only be destroyed, not plundered. The police are instructed to supervise this regulation and to arrest looters.
c) Special care is to be taken that in business streets non-Jewish businesses are absolutely secured against damage.
d) Foreign nationals - even if they are Jews - should not be molested...
5) Directly after the termination of the events of this night, the employment of the officials deployed [for the demonstrations] permitting, as many Jews - especially the well-off ones - are to be arrested as can be accommodated in the available prison space. Above all only healthy, male Jews, not too old, are to be arrested. Immediately after execution of the arrests contact is to be made with the appropriate concentration camp regarding the quickest committal of the Jews to the camp. Special care is to be taken that the Jews arrested on this order are not maltreated.
6) The content of this order is to be passed on to the responsible inspectors and commanders of the Ordnungspolizei and to the SD-Ober- and Unterabschnitten, with the rider that the Reichsführer SS and Chief of the German Police has ordered these measures...
Painting survives the Night of Broken Glass in Nazi Germany November 1938
May 27, 2011 - 12:24pm
Last year, my husband told me that the 94-year-old mother of one of his close friends was moving from her large apartment to a tiny senior's residence. He asked if I would be interested in an oil painting she had offered to give him since she no longer had a place to hang it.
When he told me it was of a vase of flowers, I thought, "Well, sounds boring, but maybe it will work in our front room". Shortly after that, he brought the painting home and I was struck by how beautiful it was and surprised that I actually liked it. As beautiful as it was, I asked if it had been repaired since there appeared to be the trace of two large slash marks through it. That's when he told me the story about this painting.
Back in the 1930's, this painting had belonged to a very wealthy Jewish family in Dusseldorf, Germany. During Kristallnacht, also referred to as "The Night of Broken Glass" Nazi soldiers broke into homes and shops all over Nazi Germany and parts of Austria ransacking and destroying property leaving the streets covered in broken glass from windows. This painting had been hanging in one of those houses and slashed by Nazi soldiers. Later, the owner returned the painting to the German artist (unknown) for repair. The painting was restored and then returned to the owner. This 94-year-old friend of my husband had married the son of the original owner of this painting.
We recently had the opportunity to travel to the home of Mildred, the 94-year-old woman who had given the painting to us. That's when she told me what her husband had witnessed on that dreadful night back in November, 1938. Nazi soldiers had broken into their home and tied up his father, himself and his brother. They then went through the home smashing and destroying what they could including this beautiful painting. I sat there in awe listening to this unbelievable account and I just knew I had to seize the opportunity to save this story with the painting. Mildred happily agreed to write down the events surrounding the damage to the painting in her own words on a card for me.
Now, this beautiful painting and the history behind it has been preserved, in the owner's own handwriting, on lovely stationery bearing her name. It will stay attached to the back of this painting so this story will never be lost or forgotten.
Island Vintage Jewelry
By Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D.
New research into Adolf Hitler's use of firearms registration lists to confiscate guns and the execution of their owners teaches a forceful lesson -- one that reveals why the American people and Congress have rejected registering honest firearm owners.
After invading, Nazis used pre-war lists of gun owners to confiscate firearms, and many gun owners simply disappeared. Following confiscation, the Nazis were free to wreak their evil on the disarmed populace, such as on these helpless Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.
t would be instructive at this time to recall why the American citizenry and Congress have historically opposed the registration of firearms. The reason is plain. Registration makes it easy for a tyrannical government to confiscate firearms and to make prey of its subjects. Denying this historical fact is no more justified than denying that the Holocaust occurred or that the Nazis murdered millions of unarmed people.I am writing a book on Nazi policies and practices which sought to repress civilian gun ownership and to eradicate gun owners in Germany and in occupied Europe. The following sampling of my findings should give pause to the suggestion that draconian punishment of citizens for keeping firearms necessarily is a social good.
At the time of the Nazi attack on Jews known as Night of the Broken Glass, Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS and Police, ordered Jews disarmed (click for closeup). People's Observor (Völkische Beobachter), Nov. 10, 1938.
Jews Forbidden to Possess Weapons
By Order of SS Reichsführer Himmler
Munich, November 10 
The SS Reichsführer and German Police Chief has issued the following Order:
Persons who, according to the Nürnberg law, are regarded as Jews, are forbidden to possess any weapon. Violators will be condemned to a concentration camp and imprisoned for a period of up to 20 years.
The Night of the Broken Glass (Kristallnacht)--the infamous Nazi rampage against Germany's Jews--took place in November 1938. It was preceded by the confiscation of firearms from the Jewish victims. On Nov. 8, the New York Times reported from Berlin, "Berlin Police Head Announces 'Disarming' of Jews," explaining:
On the evening of Nov. 9, Adolf Hitler, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, and other Nazi chiefs planned the attack. Orders went out to Nazi security forces: "All Jewish stores are to be destroyed immediately . . . . Jewish synagogues are to be set on fire . . . . The Führer wishes that the police does not intervene. . . . All Jews are to be disarmed. In the event of resistance they are to be shot immediately."2
The Berlin Police President, Count Wolf Heinrich von Helldorf, announced that as a result of a police activity in the last few weeks the entire Jewish population of Berlin had been "disarmed" with the confiscation of 2,569 hand weapons, 1,702 firearms and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. Any Jews still found in possession of weapons without valid licenses are threatened with the severest punishment.1
All hell broke loose on Nov. 10: "Nazis Smash, Loot and Burn Jewish Shops and Temples." "One of the first legal measures issued was an order by Heinrich Himmler, commander of all German police, forbidding Jews to possess any weapons whatever and imposing a penalty of twenty years confinement in a concentration camp upon every Jew found in possession of a weapon hereafter."3Thousands of Jews were taken away.
Invading Nazi troops in Holland in 1940 immediately nailed up posters announcing a ban on all firearms. From Die Deutsche Wochenshau, May 15, 1940. Searches of Jewish homes were calculated to seize firearms and assets and to arrest adult males. The American Consulate in Stuttgart was flooded with Jews begging for visas: "Men in whose homes old, rusty revolvers had been found during the last few days cried aloud that they did not dare ever again return to their places of residence or business. In fact, it was a mass of seething, panic-stricken humanity."4
Himmler, head of the Nazi terror police, would become an architect of the Holocaust, which consumed six million Jews. It was self evident that the Jews must be disarmed before the extermination could begin.
Finding out which Jews had firearms was not too difficult. The liberal Weimar Republic passed a Firearm Law in 1928 requiring extensive police records on gun owners. Hitler signed a further gun control law in early 1938.
Other European countries also had laws requiring police records to be kept on persons who possessed firearms. When the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1939, it was a simple matter to identify gun owners. Many of them disappeared in the middle of the night along with political opponents.
The Holland Poster banning guns (click for closeup). Citizens had 24 hours to surrender all firearms to the Nazis or face the death penalty. Printed in German on the left and Flemish on the right. For translation, see below. From Die Deutsche Wochenschau, May 15, 1940.
Regulations on Arms Possession in the Occupied Zone
1. All firearms and ammunition, hand grenades, explosive devices and other war matériel are to be surrendered.
The delivery must take place within 24 hours at the nearest German military administrative headquarters or garrison, provided that other special arrangements have not been made. The mayors (heads of the district councils) must accept full responsibility for complete implementation. Commanding officers are authorized to approve exceptions.
The film shows artillery and infantry rolling through the streets as happy citizens wave. It then switches to scenes of onslaughts against Dutch and Belgian soldiers, and Hitler's message that this great war would instate the 1000-year Reich. A patriotic song mixed with the images and music of artillery barrages, Luftwaffe bombings, and tank assaults compose the grand finale.
German poster from occupied France imposing the death penalty for not turning in all firearms and radio transmitters within 24 hours (click for closeup). For translation, see below. From Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération, Paris.
Ordinance Concerning the Possession of Arms and Radio Transmitters in the Occupied Territories
1) All firearms and all sorts of munitions, hand grenades, explosives and other war materials must be surrendered immediately.
Delivery must take place within 24 hours to the closest "Kommandantur" [German commander's office] unless other arrangements have been made. Mayors will be held strictly responsible for the execution of this order. The [German] troop commanders may allow exceptions.
2) Anyone found in possession of firearms, munitions, hand grenades, or other war materials will be sentenced to death or forced labor or in lesser cases prison.
3) Anyone in possession of a radio or a radio transmitter must surrender it to the closest German military authority.
4) All those who would disobey this order or would commit any act of violence in the occupied lands against the German army or against any of its troops will be condemned to death.
The Commander in Chief
of the Army
There was a fallacy to the threat. No blank existed on the poster to write in the time and date of posting, so one would know when the 24-hour "waiting period" began or ended. Perhaps the Nazis would shoot someone who was an hour late. Indeed, gun owners even without guns were dangerous because they knew how to use guns and tend to be resourceful, independent-minded persons. A Swiss manual on armed resistance stated with such experiences in mind:
Should you be so trusting and turn over your weapons you will be put on a "black list" in spite of everything. The enemy will always need hostages or forced laborers later on (read: "work slaves") and will gladly make use of the "black lists." You see once again that you cannot escape his net and had better die fighting. After the deadline, raids coupled with house searches and street checks will be conducted.6
Commented the New York Times about the interrelated rights which the Nazis destroyed wherever they went:
Military orders now forbid the French to do things which the German people have not been allowed to do since Hitler came to power. To own radio senders or to listen to foreign broadcasts, to organize public meetings and distribute pamphlets, to disseminate anti-German news in any form, to retain possession of firearms--all these things are prohibited for the subjugated people of France . . . .7
While the Nazis made good on the threat to execute persons in possession of firearms, the gun control decree was not entirely successful. Partisans launched armed attacks. But resistance was hampered by the lack of civilian arms possession.
In 1941, U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson called on Congress to enact national registration of all firearms.8 Given events in Europe, Congress recoiled, and legislation was introduced to protect the Second Amendment. Rep. Edwin Arthur Hall explained: "Before the advent of Hitler or Stalin, who took power from the German and Russian people, measures were thrust upon the free legislatures of those countries to deprive the people of the possession and use of firearms, so that they could not resist the encroachments of such diabolical and vitriolic state police organizations as the Gestapo, the Ogpu, and the Cheka."9
Rep. John W. Patman added: "The people have a right to keep arms; therefore, if we should have some Executive who attempted to set himself up as dictator or king, the people can organize themselves together and, with the arms and ammunition they have, they can properly protect themselves. . . ."10
Only two months before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Congress enacted legislation to authorize the President to requisition broad categories of property with military uses from the private sector on payment of fair compensation, but also provided:
Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed--
(1) to authorize the requisitioning or require the registration of any firearms possessed by any individual for his personal protection or sport (and the possession of which is not prohibited or the registration of which is not required by existing law), [or]
(2) to impair or infringe in any manner the right of any individual to keep and bear arms . . . .11
Meanwhile Hilter unleashed killing squads called the Einsatzgruppen in Eastern Europe and Russia. As Raul Hilberg observes, "The killers were well armed . . . . The victims were unarmed."12 The Einsatzgruppen executed two million people between fall 1939 and summer 1942. Their tasks included arrest of the politically unreliable, confiscation of weapons, and extermination.13
Typical executions were that of a Jewish woman "for being found without a Jewish badge and for refusing to move into the ghetto" and another woman "for sniping." Persons found in possession of firearms were shot on the spot. Yet reports of sniping and partisan activity increased.14
Armed citizens were hurting the Nazis, who took the sternest measures. The Nazis imposed the death penalty on a Pole or Jew: "If he is in unlawful possession of firearms, . . . or if he has credible information that a Pole or a Jew is in unlawful possession of such objects, and fails to notify the authorities forthwith."15
Given the above facts, it is not difficult to understand why the National Rifle Association opposed gun registration at the time and still does. The American Riflemen for February 1942 reported:
From Berlin on January 6th the German official radio broadcast--"The German military commander for Belgium and Northern France announced yesterday that the population would be given a last opportunity to surrender firearms without penalty up to January 20th and after that date anyone found in possession of arms would be executed."
So the Nazi invaders set a deadline similar to that announced months ago in Czecho-Slovakia, in Poland, in Norway, in Romania, in Yugo-Slavia, in Greece.
How often have we read the familiar dispatches "Gestapo agents accompanied by Nazi troopers swooped down on shops and homes and confiscated all privately-owned firearms!"
What an aid and comfort to the invaders and to their Fifth Column cohorts have been the convenient registration lists of privately owned firearms--lists readily available for the copying or stealing at the Town Hall in most European cities.
What a constant worry and danger to the Hun and his Quislings have been the privately owned firearms in the homes of those few citizens who have "neglected" to register their guns!16
During the war years the Rifleman regularly included pleas for American sportsmen to "send a gun to defend a British home.17 British civilians, faced with the threat of invasion, desperately need arms for the defense of their homes." Indeed, the New York Times carried the same solicitations. After two decades of gun control, British citizens now desperately needed rifles and pistols in their homes, and they received the gifts with great appreciation. Organized into the Home Guard, armed citizens were now ready to resist the expected Nazi onslaught.
With so many men and guns sent abroad to fight the war, America still needed defending from expected invasions on the East and West coasts, domestic sabotage, and Fifth Column activity. Sportsmen and gun clubs responded by bringing their private arms and volunteering for the state protective forces.18
Switzerland was the only country in Europe, indeed in the world, where every man had a military rifle in his home. Nazi invasion plans acknowledged the dissuasive nature of this armed populace, as I have detailed in my book Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II (Rockville Center, N.Y.: Sarpedon Publishers, 1998).
Resistance to Nazi oppression was hampered by the lack of civilian arms possession. One of the most notable exceptions was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, which began with a few incredibly brave Jews armed with handguns. They were able to temporarily stop deportations of Jews to Nazi extermination camps. Out of all the acts of armed citizen resisters in the war, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 is difficult to surpass in its heroism. Beginning with just a few handguns, armed Jews put a temporary stop to the deportations to extermination camps, frightened the Nazis out of the ghetto, stood off assaults for days on end, and escaped to the forests to continue the struggle. What if there had been two, three, many Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings?
The NRA trained hundreds of thousands of Americans in rifle marksmanship during the war. President Harry Truman wrote that NRA's firearms training programs "materially aided our war effort" and that he hopped "the splendid program which the National Rifle Association has followed during the past three-quarters of a century will be continued."20 By helping defeat the Nazi and Fascist terror regimes, the NRA helped end the Holocaust, slave labor, and the severest oppression.
Those tiny pacifist organizations of the era which called for gun registration and confiscation contributed nothing to winning the war or to stopping the genocide. Their counterparts today have nothing to offer that would enable citizens to resist genocide.
Individual criminals wreak their carnage on individuals or small numbers of people. As this century has shown, terrorist governments have the capacity to commit genocide against millions of people, provided that the people are unarmed. Schemes to confiscate firearms kept by peaceable citizens have historically been associated with some of the world's most insidious tyrannies. Given this reality, it is not surprising that law-abiding gun owners oppose being objects of registration.
One Man’s Story
One firefighter who witnessed the events in Lauphiem, Germany wrote a letter about the terrible events that he saw.
He wrote that when he got to the firehouse and saw many people outside of it, he had a strange feeling. He was not allowed in the firehouse.
One of his friends said to him, "Be quiet – the Synagogue is burning. I was beaten up already when I wanted to put out the fire." Eventually, they could take out the fire engines, but they couldn’t use them.
He saw Nazis dragging Jews in front of the synagogues, where they had to kneel down with their hands above their heads. The Jews were forced to watch their synagogues burn to the ground. Then, the people that destroyed it came to admire the damage they had done and watch them burn. He also wrote that everyone seemed quiet and calm.
The firefighters were told to stand in shifts to make sure that the flames didn’t spark and cause other fires. He began to wonder if the Nazis would spread their hate to other religions. He thought about the Catholic churches that he went to and wondered if they would be next.
Hitler 'led henchmen' in Kristallnacht riots
Adolf Hitler marched his henchmen onto the streets of Munich to perpetrate the atrocity that became known as Kristallnact, newly deciphered passages from the diaries of Josef Goebbels show. A pedestrian looks at the wreckage of a Jewish shop in Berlin, the day after "Kristallnacht" Photo: AP
By David Wroe in Berlin
4:18PM BST 21 Oct 2008
It had never been in doubt that the Nazi propaganda machine fuelled the Night of Broken Glass but now a German scholar has uncovered strong evidence that on the night of Nov 9 the Fuhrer led Nazis to destroy an important synagogue, deliberately throwing a match into a tinderbox.
On November 7, 1938, Jewish teenager Herschel Grynszpan walked into Germany's embassy in Paris and shot dead diplomat Ernst vom Rath, sparking the Night of Broken Glass, the most ferocious single pogrom of the Nazi era.
By morning of the tenth, at least 92 Jews had been murdered, more than 200 synagogues destroyed and thousands of Jewish businesses ransacked across Germany.
Angela Hermann, an historian at Munich's Institute for Contemporary History, has decoded a mysterious passage in the diary of Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels that had stumped scholars ever since this section of Goebbels' diaries was retrieved from Moscow in 1992.
''We have real evidence now that Hitler pulled the strings, that he personally directed the Kristallnacht,'' Dr Herman said, using the German name for the notorious night.
- The riddle revolved around Goebbels' enigmatic reference to ''Hitler's Stosstrupp'', or Hitler's ''special troops''. In his diary entry for November 9, the Nazi propaganda minister recounts a rally at the Munich Town Hall in which Hitler told him, among other things, that the police should let people express their anger over the vom Rath assassination.
Goebbels then wrote: ''Hitler's Stosstrupp goes out immediately to clean up Munich ... and a synagogue is smashed.''
This had historians puzzled, as there was no force known as ''Hitler's Stosstrupp'' in 1938. By digging through Munich archives, Dr Hermann found letters and documents to show that the term referred to the veterans of Hitler's failed attempt to seize power in 1923, known as the Beer Hall Putsch.
These old street fighters remained loyal to Hitler, taking orders from no one else. Dr Hermann found invitations and seating plans for the November 9 Town Hall rally that showed 39 of these old comrades sat at adjacent tables to Hitler. They included Hitler's chief adjutant Julius Schaub and chauffeur Emil Maurice. These were the same 39 men who later hit the streets and destroyed the Ohel Jacob synagogue that night, fanning the flames of an incendiary situation – on direct orders, Dr Hermann concludes, of Hitler himself.
''It's not a smoking gun, but there are rarely smoking guns in historical research,'' said author and historian Sven Felix Kellerhoff. ''I'd say it's a very important discovery. I myself had wondered who the hell Hitler's Stosstrupp were.''
Coincidentally, the discovery, published in Germany's Quarterly Journal of Contemporary History, follows an Israeli journalist's claim to have found a massive dump of Jewish belongings looted and smashed during the Kristallnacht outside Berlin.
Yaron Svoray, best known for infiltrating the neo-Nazi scene in the mid 1990s and writing the book, In Hitler's Shadow, says he has found artefacts and was told by locals that the area was used to dump the detritus of Kristallnacht.
''We were knee-deep in broken glass and porcelain. We found a bottle with the Star of David inscribed and cups from 1914,'' he said. Fearing looters, Mr Svoray said he was trying to persuade German authorities to secure the site and excavate.