70 Years ago - Pogrom of the 9th/10th November 1938
They have cast fire into thy sanctuary,
they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.
The Pretext for the Nazi organized "Reichskristallnacht" pogrom:
The "Reichskristallnacht" Pogrom was carried out throughout Germany and Austria on the night of the 9th and 10th November 1938. The name refers to the broken windows of synagogues and Jewish shops. It was officially presented as a spontaneous reaction to the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, the third secretary of the German embassy in Paris, as part of an international Jewish conspiracy, by Herschel Grynszpan, a seventeen-year-old Polish Jew. Grynszpan was born in Hannover of Polish nationality and fled to Paris in 1936. On the 7th November 1938, having learned that his parents had been deported to Zbaszyn, on the Polish border, as part of the "Poland Operation" ("Polenaktion") carried out on the 27th and 28th October 1938, he shot vom Rath and surrendered himself to the police.
On the 7th November an inflammatory editorial appeared in the Volkischer Beobachter, the official Nazi newspaper, which provoked anti-Semitic rioting on the 8th of November. In the article threats were made making it abundantly clear that a new era of Nazi Jewish policy had begun. "There is no question that the German people will take the necessary consequences following this latest crime. It is unacceptable that within our borders hundreds of thousands of Jews own entire streets of shops, populate places of amusement, and as "foreign" house-owners pocket the money of German tenants while members their race abroad call for war against Germany and shoot down German officials. ... The shots in the German embassy in Paris will not only be the beginning of a new German attitude towards the Jewish Question but hopefully also a signal to those foreigners, who had not previously realized, that ultimately only international Jew prevents understanding between nations."
The manipulation, direction and bringing into line of the German press took place daily in the "press conference of the Reich Ministry of Propaganda and Public Information" ("Reichsministerium für Volksaufklarung und Propaganda"), where the tone was set. On the 7th November the semi-official German News Agency (Deutschen Nachtrichtenbüro - DNB) instructed all editorial offices regarding form and content when reporting on the incident in Paris:
"All German newspapers must report extensively on the attempted assassination. The report must fill the entire front page. Information regarding the grave condition of vom Rath will be released by the DNB. His life is in danger. Commentaries are to stress that the assassination carried out by the Jew must lead to serious consequences for the Jews in Germany, including foreign Jews in Germany. It should be stressed that the Jewish emigrant clique who placed the gun in Frankfurter's hand are also responsible for this crime. The question should be posed if it was the intention of this Jewish clique to cause trouble between Germany and France, as an assassin was sent to the German embassy, that is, to German soil, after Jewish poison had long dominated the German programmes of French radio."
The German public were to be made to believe that the assassination of vom Rath was part of an organized conspiracy of "World Jewry" and German-Jewish emigrants in France. The press was thereby instructed to make a connection with the murder of Wilhelm Gustloff in Davos, Switzerland by the Yugoslavian Jewish student David Frankfurter. Gustloff was born in Schwerin and moved to Davos, Switzerland in 1917 for health reasons. He joined the Nazi party in 1929 and in 1932 was appointed head of the party's Foreign Organization (Auslandsorganisation) in Switzerland. Gustloff had the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", an anti-Semitic forgery, widely distributed, causing Jewish circles in Switzerland to sue for libel the book's distributor, the Swiss Nazi party.
Gustloff remained in the background, since, as a foreigner, he was in danger of being expelled from the country. However, his role in the unrestrained anti-Semitic agitation was public knowledge. This caused David Frankfurter, a Jewish medical student, to ambush Gustloff at his home in Davos and shoot him dead on the 4th of February 1936. Frankfurter was sentenced to eighteen years imprisonment of which he served nine and pardoned after the Second World War. Nazi propaganda claimed the assassination was a conspiracy by "international Jewry". Because of the Olympic games which were about to be held in Berlin in August 1936 and because it was not yet opportune for a campaign against the Jews Nazi reaction to the assassination was restrained.
On the 8th of November it was announced in the press conference: "The vom Rath case must be reported once more." The responsible official in Goebbel's Ministry of Propaganda and Public Information, Helmut Diewerge, had discovered that the assassin was a Jew (this was known the day before but it was to be emphasized again) who was obviously specifically chosen. He was young and, as with the Gustloff murder, not a citizen of the country in which the crime was committed. ... The same group was behind the two assassinations. Combat funds had been collected for weeks. Jewry makes no distinction between so-called "savage party fanatics", as they called Gustloff, and peaceful civil servants. One had even dared to enter the embassy which even in war is respected by the enemy. The press were also advised to mention the specially hated author Emil Ludwig (Cohn) when enumerating the individuals responsible, and to question whether those German authors living in exile in Paris deserve to be regarded as German. In Goebbels' speech at the burning of books (Feuerrede) he accused Emil Ludwig of "falsification of our history and disparagement of its great figures". The press obliged. They also complied with: "the latest communiqué regarding the state of health of vom Rath is to be put on the front page."
Apart from the fact that only fanatical Nazis believed the exile writers and intellectuals had anything to do with the assassination of vom Roth, who was only nominally a National Socialist, many people doubted the reports precisely because of the blanket propaganda, just as in 1933 many opponents of the Nazi regime were convinced that on the 27th February the Nazis had set the Reichsag (Parliament) on fire as a pretext to persecute the communists.
On the 9th November a young female journalist in Berlin, who was no Nazi supporter and who had many Jewish friends, wrote in her diary: "On buses, in the street, in shops and cafés people, publicly and privately, discussed the Grünspan case. Nowhere did I experience any anti-Semitic indignation but a deep apprehension like before a storm. In Kurfürstendamm, Tauentzienstraße and Leipziger Straße the shops, which by order must be labelled in white as Jewish, are conspicuously empty." She questioned a former colleague from the newspaper who, as "non-Aryan", had been dismissed for some time and who filled his days writing letters and who expected the worst, what would happen if vom Rath died. "Naturally he will die", answered Dr Heinrich Mühsam, "otherwise there would have been no point to the whole thing. Before avenging him one must weep over him. The greater the sorrow the more fanatic the hate. Did you not know that political incidents only occur when one is prepared down to the last boot buttons? There is no doubt: the war against the Jews is just round the corner. For my part I propose to remain a pacifist. Nothing more than death can occur even to a Jew."
On the 9th November it was reported that Hitler had appointed vom Rath (who had only held his post since September 1938) embassy secretary first grade "due to his courageous conduct". The press was directed to specially publish this. Vom Rath's condition was serious and that his demise must be reckoned with. Shortly after this the DBN made phone calls to the editorial offices: "Now that vom Rath has died the press is requested not to report his promotion. When naming his rank embassy secretary first grade is to be given." The Nazi manipulated inflammatory propaganda in the German press on the 7th and 8th November led to riots against Jews and Jewish institutions.
On the 9th November, during the course of the day, non-local Nazi activists provoked anti-Semitic riots here and there. The hour of militant anti-Semitism had arrived. Old hostility toward the Jews was translated into action without this being expressly ordered "from above". This was the prelude to the pogrom for which, on the evening of the 9th November, Goebbels' was to take personal responsibility.
The 9th November was a significant date for the NSDAP: the "old fighters" of the party gathered annually in Munich to commemorate Hitler's abortive putsch of the 8th and 9th November 1923. Around 9 p.m. a messenger brought Hitler the news that Ernst vom Rath had died from his wounds. Following a long dialogue with Goebbels, who was sitting next to Hitler in the old Munich town hall, Hitler left the assembly and Goebbels got to work. Around 10 p.m. he announced the death of vom Rath and gave a insightful anti-Semitic speech that culminated in the call for retaliation and revenge. The NSDAP and SA leaders present were given the impression that they were expected to organize the appropriate action. Goebbels hinted that this was the hour for action against the Jews without this being expressly ordered.
Hitler, as head of state, by tactically withdrawing, kept open the possibility of retreat regarding both foreign countries and critics within the party. Goebbels received the disapproval of his colleagues not due to philanthropic feelings towards the Jews but due to tactical thinking and rivalry. The "order" was transmitted to the Gau propaganda offices who relayed it to the NSDAP district and local group leaders and SA throughout Germany and Austria. Everywhere they sprang out of bed to carry out the order. The pogrom lasted from midnight to the morning. Such barbarism had not been witnessed for centuries in Central Europe and since the Age of Enlightenment.
The pogrom was, as everyone knew and as the perpetrators declared in court after the war, state organized and involved the carrying out of orders. What was exceptional was the excesses and brutality used. Goebbels had appealed to the basest of instincts and released a flood of destructive frenzy and blood lust that turned normally harmless, upright citizens into beasts. A combination of lack of courage, cowardice, the desire to conform, effective propaganda, sympathy with Nazi anti-Semitism and a general disapproval but lack of personal confrontation resulted in the ability of the Nazis to intensify their programme of extermination of the Jews.
Do Not Stand Silent: Remembering Kristallnacht 1938
"If you saw a fanatical mob pillage and burn a church or synagogue you would not stand silent..."
Thomas E. Dewey in The New York Times, November 12, 1938
Anonymous: One of the 1,000 Hamburg Jews who were arrested and who was incarcerated in Sachsenhausen concentration camp described the period between his arrest on the 10th November and his release on the 21st November 1938. In comparison with his fellow-suffers his experience was relatively harmless:
We were initially taken to Fuhlsbüttel Prison and imprisoned in a dark room whose capacity was exceeded fivefold, and were held there the entire day without food. We were then transported in the night, in open lorries, to Sachsenhausen concentration camp where we arrived at 2 a.m. En route a 17 year-old youth from Bremen experienced a nervous breakdown having been forced to witness the SS shoot his mother and leave her lying where she fell, she having screamed in anguish over his being led away. A large group of SS greeted us at Sachsenhausen who immediately began such maltreatment of us, with kicks and blows from rifle butts and clubs, that the accompanying policemen stood aghast and quickly departed. The physical strain and incessant beatings and harassment by the SS on our 15 minute march to the camp left two of our group dead. Then began the most terrible physical maltreatment of all: we had to stand 19 hours on the parade ground (for some this lasted 25 hours) and if during this time someone broke down he received kicks and beatings with rifle butts.
Firstly, the rabbi was called out, his beard pulled, generally maltreated, then given a sign to carry which read: 'I am a traitor and implicated in the death of vom Rath'. He had to carry this sign in outstretched arms for a period of 12 hours. The SS men, none of whom were above the age of 21, especially victimised old, fat, Jewish looking, Jews of social status, e.g. rabbis, teachers, lawyers, whereas the athletic looking younger Jews were treated more leniently. And so it was that a former senior civil servant who reported with his title was specially cruelly treated, and likewise the owner of a restoration firm. I am still convinced the behaviour of the SS had a homosexual undertone to it. Then our beards and heads were shaved and we had to stand another six hours in the rain without food, drink or head covering. Consequently, we were two nights without sleep or food, having to stand most of the time ... .
The work, to which we were escorted at the double, was in the Hermann Göring Brick Works (Klinker Werken Hermann Göring) and consisted of carrying sand and cement bags. We prisoners had to wear our jackets back to front holding up the bottoms so that sand could be shovelled in indiscriminately. We then had to carry this, at arms length, for a distance of five minutes and empty it into trucks. Then back at the double. Bags of cement, weighing 50 kgs., were thrown indiscriminately onto the backs of 60 and 65 year-old men who had to carry this load the same distance at a fast pace, throw them down and run back. Now and then the sand was carried on so-called stretchers which was worse as the wood cut so deep into the hands that the flesh of my hands was cut to the bone. ... . We marched back from work in columns of five.
Those who collapsed were beaten and then carried on stretchers inside the column so that they were hidden from the people on the street. Those who could not stand upright at drill had to "roll", i.e. to turn over and over in the sand until unconscious. Many of these tortured souls then committed suicide by running up against the electrified fence or were shot by the guards in the towers overlooking the compound.
Finally, on the 21st November we were informed of our release and were transported back in groups of seventy. As we were assembled in front of the camp commander prior to our release senior SS officers discussed whether it would not be expedient to kill or burn this or that especially fat Jew. This joking had a terrible effect upon those who had experienced nervous breakdowns. This was not the end of our ordeal. The morning after this announcement we had to stand, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the pouring rain without anything on our heads, and then on the following day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., without food or the possibility of going the toilet. Finally, it was announced that the Jews were not to receive a travel ticket and that: "You can walk all the way to Stargard as far as I am concerned". We paid for those among us without money and then had to wait a further 12 hours at the railway station before being able to make the return journey. Our clothes having been disinfected, as all Jews are lice-ridden, were completely ruined."
Johanna Neumannn-Gerechter: "How did an eight-year-old girl experience "Kristallnacht"? This was before the age of mass media and radio was not what it is today. News did not circulate so speedily and so the 10th November 1938 began like any other day: I left home for school. I took the route I had taken so many mornings. This took me to the rear of our beautiful Bornplatz Synagogue where a large crowd had gathered in front of the entrance who were shouting and throwing stones at the lovely windows. I did not understand what was happening and hurried on to school. I had hardly arrived at school when we were informed that something terrible had happened and that there would be no school. All parents were requested to collect their children. My mother collected me and took me to my grandmother where we remained the entire day. In the meantime my father had gone into town and seen the terrible destruction of Jewish property that had occurred during the night: the smashed windows, the devastated shops, the destroyed goods strewn all over the road, men being arrested.
My father was fortunate that no one recognized him and that he was not at home when they called to take him away. My mother tried to convince him that we should not return home but stay with my grandmother but he insisted that we spend the night in our own flat. We returned home and went to bed without switching on the light. I remember the terrible fear I felt specially when in the middle of the night the Gestapo hammered on our door. We remained silent and they finally left.
Early the next morning, with only a few necessities in a bag, we returned to grandma and remained until the pogrom was over. It lasted an entire week. Grandma had a spacious flat at no. 83 Grindelallee. The bedroom was at the rear and it was here that my father, Bruno Becher, a dentist and friend of the Baers, and an older man whose name I no longer remember, hid for several days. We assumed that, as my grandfather had died in 1935, the Gestapo would not come looking for him. Our assumption was false as on the second or third day of the pogrom two Gestapo men called to arrest my grandpa. Grandma told them that her husband was three years dead. They departed but my father and Bruno Becher did not want to risk the Gestapo returning and therefore set out that night, under the cover of darkness, to Blankenese. There was a summer camp for Jewish children in Blankenese which also served as a Hachschara (agricultural and craft training) for those wanting to emigrate to Palestine. Our friends the Meyers and their three children had fled to Blankenese at the start of the pogrom. Blankenese was surrounded by thick woods and everyone that hid there had a stock of food and remained the whole day in the woods. No one was arrested in Blankenese; they all returned when the week of terror was over.
Aunt Herta's fiancé, Ernst Rothstein, the manager of a large Wagner department store, was immediately arrested on the morning of the 10th November as he left for his office. He was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and released sometime in December 1938, shortly before Herta departed for the USA. He did not succeed in getting to the USA and was deported to Auschwitz on the 11th July 1942. Becher, a friend of the Baer family, was deported to Minsk on the 8th November 1941. Herta Baer and her two children Werner and Ruth (born in 1932 and 1937 respectively) were deported to Minsk on the 18th November 1941.
My mother and I remained the entire time with my grandmother. We had no news of my father and did not know how long the pogrom would last or what else could happen. When we finally returned to our own flat the neighbours informed us that the Gestapo had called a number of times to arrest my father and had attempted to kick open the door. There were visible boot prints. It was a harsh winter and many of those who had been arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps returned home with severe frostbite and other injuries. The result of "Kristalnacht" and its aftermath was an increase in emigration at the beginning of 1939. It was also a turning point in the Nazi persecution of German and Austrian Jews.
(...) Life had lost its normality. The fear, this awful fear, that scarred my childhood has never left me. The experience of the war years only intensified it. I had almost forgotten what this fear was like and what provoked it until I saw a film on Israeli TV about a German-Jewish family. When I heard Hitler's voice delivered to a mass meeting all those memories of terror with which I grew up suddenly returned. I felt as though I was back in Hamburg, a five-year-old, lying in bed unable to sleep because the terrifying voice of Hitler resounded through our neighbourhood from the neighbour's radios.
Schlomo Schwarzschild: (...) One morning in late autumn 1938 many of my fellow pupils did not arrive at school. They and their families, being Polish citizens, were, suddenly and without warning, deported to the Polish border, in the so-called "Poland Operation" ("Polenaktion"). The mood among us Jews was very gloomy. There was a foreboding that something terrible was going to happen to us. Then vom Rath, third secretary in the German embassy in Paris, was assassinated. None of us slept during the night of the 9th/10th November. We all hoped he would survive. He died. Early in the morning of the 10th of November on my way to morning prayers in the Bornplatz Synagogue I met old Mr Schenkolewski. He told me the synagogue had been set on fire, the windows smashed and the interior devastated. When I arrived, out of breath, at Bornplatz, I saw the awful sight. An assembled crowd. The younger ones seemed to be enjoying the spectacle. Most of the others stood around in silence with grave looks. Some grinned and gloated. Thick, black smoke streamed out of the broken windows. Torn up Torah rolls and prayer books lay in the ruins. On this morning at this spot time came to a standstill for me. This moment was the traumatic end of my childhood that had, up to this point, been closely bound up with the synagogue choir and orthodox community life. It was plain to me that there was no future for us Jews in Germany.
When I returned home later I found my mother sobbing hysterically on the telephone. She was begging our relatives abroad for the financial assistance for us to emigrate. Tragically, it was too late!!! Then the arrests began. Some hid, many were incarcerated in concentration camps. When, weeks later, the men were released their heads were shorn and they had terrible septic chilblains (it was winter). And their eyes! Fear and shock! Unforgettable!
(...) All Jewish families arranged not to ring but to knock on the front door when visiting one another. It could be the Gestapo. To this day I start for fright when I hear the sound of shattering glass. A few days later I returned to Bornplatz. I put my beret in my pocket so as not to be identified as a Jew. People stood around curious, silent. I wanted more than anything to take something from the synagogue as a memento. I picked up a fragment of coloured glass from the ruins. Today it hangs, framed with a picture of the Bornplatz Synagogue, above my bed at home in Haifa.
And then something occurred most unusual for the time. As I stooped rummaging in the ruins I sensed someone standing motionless behind me. Frightened, I looked round to see a 40 to 50 year-old man in working clothes, cap and bicycle. As our eyes met he quickly looked around and muttered angrily: "Look here young lad. You will very much regret this. What you see here will one day occur to Hamburg." The man hastily cycled off in the direction of Grindelallee. Only later did I realize that he had taken me for a young Nazi looter. (...)
Mrs R.: "Kristallnacht" was carried out on Thursday/Friday night of the 9th/10th November 1938. On Thursday my employer, Mr Heimann, and I left the shop "Funk-Heimann", in Neuer Steinweg, for home as usual. I lodged at the Heimann's house at no. 9 Parkallee. At 6 a.m. the following morning the front door bell rang. On opening the door a Gestapo officer placed his foot in it preventing it from being closed. He entered and immediately went to the bedroom where Mr and Mrs Heimann were sleeping. He switched on the light and ordered Mr Heimann to go with him. He also searched the closets for weapons and gold.
I left the house and met Dr Möller in the street who asked me not to talk to him. I crossed Grindelhof and saw the pages of the prayer books flying around and the smashed windows of the Bornplatz Synagogue. I continued on into the city. My brother, Samuel, was employed as a carpenter at Hirschfeld's fashion store. The coats, dresses, etc. were swimming in the canal (fleet). My brother disappeared and it was three weeks before someone having returned from Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, near Berlin reported that he had seen him there. My father, Julius Plessner, was spared this ordeal. I saw him with a Sefer Tora, which belonged to our family, but I have no idea where he took it. That very Friday I went to Gestapo headquarters in the Stadthaus in Stadthausbrücke and asked if we could bring food or other things. I was told that if I did not leave I would also be imprisoned. Nearly all our Jewish men were arrested.
At Funk-Heimann's we had a man who delivered eggs. He suddenly appeared at the house door. All I could say was: "A man is here". The men were released after a few months but there was the general belief that it would not be long before they were arrested again. Having returned from Sachsenhausen Mr Heimann phoned his employee Mr Engel but the later never visited him. He had taken over the shop.
Hans J. Robinsohn: A statement made on the morning of the 10th November 1938 concerning the damage done to the Robinsohn Brothers' fashion store in Neuer Wall. On that dreadful morning the caretaker phoned warning me not to come to work. My father and I went nevertheless. The ground and first floors looked as though they had suffered a bombardment. All the windows had been smashed. The heavy cupboards and tables had been thrown down the air well from the first-floor to the ground-floor. Typewriters had been smashed with crowbars, all the card index cabinets had been bent out of shape, all the display dummies and bolts of material had been thrown into the Alster canal to the rear of the building. All the glass tables and cupboards had been destroyed. All the toilets on one staircase had been systematically smashed. There was such a quantity of splinters of glass and wood that we set up two first-aid stations where the workers' wounds, to the feet and legs, hands and arms, were bandaged.
Like other "Jewish" businesses Robinsohn was forced to sell his business to high-ranking Nazis for well below its value ("Aryanization"). It is clear that the business was brought to a close only after it had been broken into, destroyed, looted, and its personnel arrested. Normal competition and boycott action had been unsuccessful. This shows the limits of personal resistance but more significantly that within these limits resistance was possible. This is a fact that is often ignored.
Luise Solmitz, diary extracts:
7.11.38: Assassination of vom Rath, third secretary at the German embassy in Paris by the 17 year-old Jew Grynszpan. Grünspan stated that he wanted to avenge his Polish-Jewish countrymen. A subject without identity papers who had no residence permit for France. How did he gain access to the German embassy? Without being searched for weapons?
10.11.38: An evil, evil day. Fr. at the greengrocers I heard that Jewish shops had been wrecked and closed. We walked to the city centre ... . People were uncannily busy and occupied, groups, crowds, barriers, all the large Jewish shops closed: Robinsohn, Hirschfeld, all windows shattered, a continuous clatter and clashing of glass falling while being cleared by glaziers; I have never heard such a clatter. Silent, astonished and approving people. An ugly atmosphere - An elderly women decided: "When they shoot our people over there we are forced to react so." 6 p.m. on the radio: Demonstrations and actions against the Jews are to cease immediately. - Goebbels says that the Führer will decree the response to vom Rath's murder.
i.e. our fate slowly progresses towards our destruction.
Practically all the synagogue windows were smashed and the interior devastated. People were looking into the building through the open doors. Policemen standing in the front garden. People continuously passing by.
In the evening Gi. and I took a puppy to our local police station; a Jew was being investigated, a deathly pale man lay on a seat in the corner. The puppy sniffed at the man, the policeman said: "Stop that, that's a Jew."
11.11.38: The day began with the comforting words of Mrs H. (the cleaning lady): "In no time they have had it; it's all up with the Jews". I feared she had heard an early morning announcement but I did not ask and there was nothing. Dismal, bitter, fearful atmosphere. Courage does not help. Gi. and I walked into the city, wooden boards instead of windows, immense damage; the silent crowd walked up and down. No Jews among them.
To our block warden in the evening regarding the surrender of weapons. Gi. and I had read this while out walking: all firearms, stabbing and cutting weapons owned by Jews had to be surrendered to the police within the next four days.
Fr.'s beautiful sporting-gun, the weapons he used in action. One sorrow leads to another, nowhere a glimmer of goodwill, of hope, nowhere a small sigh of relief. Those not affected cannot understand how fortunate, how secure, their life is. They have no need to fear for their property; newspapers, radio, nothing can worry them. When I had surrendered the weapons I rushed home, worried about Fr. I was relieved when we met him ... we wanted to see how much we could endure. Theodor Fontane has Effi Briest ask: "Is it difficult to rise somewhat earlier from the table of life?" Yes, for those that retain the bond of love, that know the value of life, its beauty, its sacred daily routine, and who is not guilty of any civil offence and was never disloyal to his country.
Himmler's regulation threatens 20 years protective custody and concentration camp for not surrendering weapons!
12.11.38: I went to Alsterhaus to buy theatre tickets for Gi, and Mrs E. and her Rita. Before I entered Alsterhaus I read: "The Reich government will respond lawfully but firmly". - I will never forget these words: lawfully but firmly. Our fate is sealed. I hardly believe I carried out my errand in Alsterhaus. I no longer noticed my surroundings. I had to tell Gi. about the tickets, I phoned, I was able to speak about the tickets; my voice nearly failed me. Then I met up with Fr. again ... and we went to the Gestapo in the Stadthaus, Stadthausbrücke.
Fr. had not read the wording of the weapons' regulation, otherwise he would not have applied to keep his battle sword, and pistol. - The two SS men, who dealt with us in the vestibule were somewhat at a loss: "retired squadron-leader?" The official on the floor above dryly said: "That is all over." He added: "And I would advise you to surrender everything." Fr. answered: "That goes without saying for an ex-officer."
Just as we arrived home and were about to go out again the front door bell rang. Two men in civilian clothes. Fr. said: "Luise, these men are from the Gestapo." - "Please come in", I said as calmly as I felt. As I entered the room with them one of the officers asked Fr.: "Can I speak to you alone?" I left the room. : However, I heard him ask: "Do you have decorations?" Fr.: "War decorations? Yes, quite a few." - "Show me the documents." "You were a pilot?" Fr.: "Yes, one of the first air-force officers in Germany and as such was 50% disabled." "Keep it short!" - Fr. said that we had just returned from the Gestapo regarding the surrender of weapons. He asked: "You have weapons?" - "Many, as an ex-front-line officer." -"Oh, then surrender them all." Fr. again stated that this went without saying. "May I ask you the reason for your visit?" "That we are departing without taking action demonstrates that everything is in order."
Would they have arrested Fr. or asked him to report at a particular time and place had he not had decorations? He had struggled through a bad quarter of an hour.
In a gloomy mood, me stone-like, we travelled to W. having announced our arrival. On the way all newspapers screamed out: "Attendance at theatres, concerts, cinemas is banned to Jews."
We were not cheerful guests ... W. was horrified: "But Fr. nothing will happen to you! This has nothing to do with you!!" How is it possible that people can be so out of touch. I told her not to be too eager to seek a two-room flat, perhaps her third room would be our last refuge. ... She promised. - No, we were not cheerful guests, And in the evening the blow hit us. - I was too terrified to listen. Paris reported: The Jews were to pay one billion RM for the murder in Paris. Also total elimination from economic life. Now Fr. admitted: we are destroyed.
Around 45 million ... Frenchmen in a rich country paid 5 billion (1871), which makes 9 million paid one billion. Here 600,000, in a dire crisis, must raise one billion ... It does not relate to earning power but accessible bank accounts, i.e. everything.
14.11.38: Jews may no longer attend German universities; there are certain exceptions. The final solution to the Jewish problem is discussed. What will this be; why must we be terrified and 80 million people calmly await this? The farewell that Fr. made with his companions in war yesterday. Honourably held, ignominiously carried out. That one must again sleep! .. falling asleep now means fear of waking; ... I was wide awake in the middle of the night; that one attempts to stifle by reading, without registering what one is reading.
5.12.38: Berlin already has streets prohibited to Jews, and streets in which they are strongly advised not to move to.
Rudolfo Jacobi: Following the "Reichskristallnacht" pogrom of the 9th/10th November 1938 all the synagogues in Hamburg, destroyed and intact, were sealed by the police on the 10th of November preventing entry. Those Jews who were either not on the lists or who had escaped arrest by the Gestapo, or for reasons of illness were not incarcerated in concentration camps were not able to hold religious services. We were about to emigrate - my father was interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp but he hoped he would be returned home before the ship departed on the 22nd November - and wanted to take various ritual objects and prayer books with us that were kept in the almemar in the synagogue in Gluckstraße in Barmbek. I decided, as seventeen-year-old, to visit the relevant police station to ask whether they would allow me to collect these. The police were friendly and, following a short conversation with their superiors, two police officers, one either side of me, accompanied me to Gluckstraße. Naturally, everyone in the street turned to look at us surprised to see such a young lad being led away.
Arriving in Gluckstraße, they broke the seal on the door and the non-Jewish sexten, who lived next door, opened the door. I went to my father's and my pigeonholes, empted both and placed the prayer books in my briefcase. I thanked the two friendly police officers and travelled home content. I doubt whether this was possible in other places. The fact that my father had valid emigration papers and the Iron Cross from the First World War had not prevented him from being incarcerated in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
A telephone conversation with Sachsenhausen concentration camp:
As recounted, our ship, the "Alhena", was to depart on the 22nd November for Rotherdam-Monteviedo-Buenos Aires. We had visas for Uruguay. A few days prior to this date the Gestapo had informed my mother that her husband was to be released. When on the afternoon of the 21st November there was no sign of my father we were close to despair and did not know what to do. Finally, in desperation, my mother had an idea. She telephoned the telephone exchange and asked the operator to connect her with Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After a short wait the operator reported: "There is no Sachsenhausen concentration camp, only a Sachsenhausen training camp." "Please connect me." "I am sorry but I cannot connect you as it is a secret number." "Ask your superior whether, as a special exception, you can connect me , it is extremely important", urged my mother. "One moment please."
My mother's hands, holding the telephone, were trembling. The two, three minutes that elapsed seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, a male voice was heard: "Sachsenhausen training camp". My mother's voice broke: "Can you please tell me whether my husband, Max Jacobi, has been released. The Gestapo informed me a few days ago that he was to be released". From the other end was heard: "You must wait a few minutes while I check the papers." It seemed as though hours passed. Then the voice reported back: "Your husband was released an hour ago." As it turned out later this information was true. Via Berlin, where my father borrowed money from relatives to continue his journey home, he arrived around midnight at Hamburg central railway station, roughly twenty minutes before the departure of our ship.
I have never heard from any other survivor of the 9th/10th November pogrom that they were able to telephone a concentration camp.
Steffi Wittenberg: On the 10th November 1938 I was on my way to my school in Karolinenstraße (Israelitische Töchterschule). In Binderstraße I met school-friends coming the other way: "There is no school today, the synagogue is on fire." I returned home to find my mother in utter dismay. Already it was known that Jewish men had been arrested in their homes and shops. As a consequence two Jewish fathers, whose families lived in our apartment house, Dr Hugo Meyer and Max Haas, came to hide by us as my father and brother had left Nazi Germany for Montevideo, Uruguay on the 12th October 1938. No one was arrested from our house.
The Gestapo occupied the Talmud Tora boys' school; practically all teachers, including the school director Arthur Spier, as well as the upper school pupils, were arrested. The school remained closed for 10 days, as did our girls' school in Carolinenstraße. Many of the fathers of my school friends were arrested. Our female teachers were spared arrest as was our school director Dr Alberto Jonas. He died in Theresienstadt in 1942. The over 1,000 arrested Hamburg Jews were taken away to the Gestapo in the Stadthaus, in Stadhaubrücke, to Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp and Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In the concentration camps they were pressed into heavy labour and suffered terrible beatings and other maltreatment that also resulted in deaths or permanent damage to their health.
The Gestapo demanded that the Talmud Tora school be reopened. The teachers were therefore released after 10 days. The pupil Gert Koppel described their appearance after their return home: "limping, heads shaven, with face wounds and eyes full of terror." The majority of the other prisoners returned home after 6 to 8 weeks with the threat not to relate what had happened to them and to immediately leave Germany.
Synagogues were destroyed and burned, shop windows of Jewish owned shops were shattered, the shattered glass covering the pavements, and the demolished shops were looted. Jewish homes were assaulted, and in many cases Jews were physically attacked and killed. About 30,000 Jews, especially the influential and wealthy, were arrested, often with the help of previously prepared lists, and incarcerated in Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps where they were treated with great cruelty by the SS. This was the first time that riots had been organized on such an extensive scale, accompanied by mass detention.
Heydrich's orders for the arrests were dispatched to the state police and SS only after midnight, when the action was in full swing. Heydrich, together with Himmler and Goering, were taken by surprise by Goebbels' initiative. Himmler ordered the SS to remain in their billets and not to take part in the rioting, while Heydrich forbade looting, but to no avail.
In a provisional assessment, Heydrich reported to Goering on the 11th November that 815 shops, 29 department stores, and 171 dwellings of Jews had been burned or otherwise destroyed, and that 267 synagogues had been set ablaze or completely demolished (this was only a fraction of the number of synagogues actually destroyed). The same report refers to thirty-six Jews killed and the same number severely injured, but later it was officially stated that the number killed was ninety-one; in addition, hundreds perished in the concentration camps.
The pogrom was followed by administrative and legal orders issued with a fourfold object: to complete the process of "Aryanization" to the benefit of the government's disrupted revenues; to expedite the Jews' emigration; to isolate the Jews completely from the general population; and to abolish the still quasi-autonomous organization of the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (the representative body of German Jewry) and other official Jewish institutions. These proposed developments were inaugurated at a representative meeting on the 12th November called and presided over by Goering, who announced that Hitler had charged him with the implementation of the Reich's Jewish policy. In the ensuing discussion, the damage to Jewish property was estimated at several hundred million RM, and the insurance payments due to owners of 7,500 demolished stores came to 25 million RM.
Decisions taken on economic issues included a fine of one billion RM imposed on the Jewish community under the pretext of reparation for the murder of vom Rath, and confiscation by the state of the insurance payments, while at the same time making the Jewish store owners liable for the repairs. "Aryanization" was to be implemented along the lines already practiced by Hans Fischbock, the Austrian minister of commerce. On Heydrich's suggestion, it was decided to coordinate the Jews' emigration through a Central Office for Jewish Emigration (Zentralstelle für Jüdische Auswanderung) to be established in Germany along the lines of the one developed by Adolf Eichmann in Austria. Some of the economic measures were announced the same day; additional steps, including those aimed at undermining the Jews' status, were promulgated during the following months. The "Kristallnacht" prisoners who survived the concentration camps were released early in 1939 for immediate emigration or for the "Aryanization" of their property, often for both. The sharp reaction to the "Kristallnacht" outrage that was expressed by the Western press and public did not affect the Nazis.
Wolfgang Benz: Der Rückfall in die Barbarei. Bericht über den Pogrom.
in Walter H. Perle (ed.).: Der Judenpogrom 1938. Von der "Reichskristallnacht" zum Völkermord. Frankfurt am Main, 1988.
Anonymer Bericht, 26th November 1938, Vienna Library, P II d, No. 2, Archive IfZ, MZS 1/1.
Jürgen Sielemann: Fragen und Antworten zur "Riechskristallnacht" in Hamburg.
in Hans Wilhelm Eckardt, et al.: Bewahren und Berichten: Festschrift für Hans-Dieter Loose zum 60 Geburtstag.10. November
Johanna Neumann-Gerechter: Auch in Albanien gibt es keine Ruhe.
inCharlotte Ueckert-Hilbert (ed.).: Fremd in der eigenen Stadt. Erinnerungen jüdischer Emigranten aus Hamburg. Hamburg, 1989.
Luise Solmitz: Auszüge aus den Tagebüchern.
in Peter Freimark, Wolfgang Kopitzsh (eds.).: Der 9./10. November 1938 in Deutschland. Dokumentation zur "Kristallnacht". Hamburg, 1988.
Schlomo Schwarzschild: Rede auf dem Joseph Carlebach Platz am 9.11.1998.
Rudolfo Jacobi: In Begleitung der Polizei zur Synagoge.
in Charlotte Ueckert-Hilbert (ed.).: Fremd in der eigenen Stadt. Erinnerungen jüdischer Emigranten aus Hamburg. Hamburg, 1989.
Steffi Wittenberg: Rede auf dem Joseph Carlebach Platz am 9.11.2001.
Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
Hintergrundgrafik: Titelseite der New York Times vom 10. November 1938