Kristallnacht – The Night of the Crystal Glass, November 9-10, 1938
Part 1 - by Dr. Gerhard Falk
Recently the most prominent member of my synagogue, a woman who dominates all committees and dictates all policies in our congregation, shouted that my presence in “my synagogue” desecrates Kristallnacht.
Here is an American Jewish woman screaming epithets at another Jew about an event she did not experience but which was witnessed by the target of her outburst.
An understanding of the events of November 9-10, 1938 depends in the first place on having seen it and lived it. That is of course not possible for anyone other than those who survived the Nazi atrocities. Therefore it may be better and wiser not to claim that we are victims of something which we only read about or which we “heard” about from third parties.
The burning of all synagogues in Germany and Austria was not the only crime then committed. On the same night, hundreds of Jews were carted to concentration camps and murdered. Other Jews were killed in the streets. Jewish homes were invaded by Nazi gangs who threw furniture out the windows of houses and stores, so that the streets were covered with glass shattered when these objects were hurled through the plate glass fronts of business establishments.
After these horrors, the German government demanded that the Jews pay for the damages and confiscated all Jewish bank accounts and insurance payments to compensate for the damage the Nazis themselves created.
Only someone who lived there then can estimate the meaning of these horrors. Nevertheless, it should rightfully be said that the “Final Solution” was yet to come after the gassings began in 1941 and cost the lives of 6 million Jews, mostly living in eastern Europe.
It is remarkable that former President Jimmy Carter, the Goebbels of today, said in Switzerland on December 3, 2003 that he would have instituted “the final solution” in Israel if he had been elected to a second term as president. In short, Carter and his Democratic allies support Hitler’s “Final Solution”.
That “Final Solution” was achieved by ordering 430 decrees against the Jewish people in Germany and occupied Europe. The first of these was the “Law for the Reconstruction of the Civil Service”, which fired all Jewish civil service employees in all local, state or federal agencies. This was shortly followed by the prohibition of Kosher slaughtering on the grounds that such animal slaughter was “inhumane”.
By 1935, all Jewish physicians, dentists, lawyers, professors and other professionals were no longer allowed to work. In that year also, the “race laws” were passed. These determined that Jews were a sub-race of the human species. Consequently, Jews were prohibited from sexual intercourse with non-Jews. Therefore, all intermarriages were also prohibited so as to protect “German blood and honor.”
In 1936 all Jewish owned businesses had to be leased to non-Jews for no money or so little that the Jews were forced into destitution.
Innumerable other ordinances against Jews were already in use by 1938 when it was decided that all Jews had to be called Sarah or Israel. In that year also, all Jews had to deliver their jewelry and silverware at the nearest police precinct together with our radios.
I remember the long line of Jews who gradually entered the local precinct house and dropped their goods on tables provided. The “cops” had a list of all Jews in their area and checked off the names of those who had brought their silverware and radios and jewelry. All the while the cops shouted: “this place stinks from garlic”. We were then photographed and fingerprinted and a “Jew identification card” was issued us. This has a large “J” for “Jude” on its cover. I still have mine, signed in Gothic German and showing my picture as a young boy and my “criminal” fingerprints.
These and other horrors all preceded Kristallnacht, so that the public was already immune to finding anything objectionable to the dynamiting of the synagogue walls.
Yet, what happened to us thereafter is unspeakable and cannot be described. Therefore, it would be better if even the biggest “machers” in our congregations refrain from screaming at Holocaust survivors that we “desecrate” Kristallnacht. We really can’t do that because we were there. We leave the desecration to the “big shots” in our synagogues who do not know that the Talmud says in Baba Metziah that a Jew would rather jump into a fiery furnace than humiliate another Jew in public.
Part 2 - by Dr. Ursula A. Falk
To add to the above explanation of the Kristallnacht experience from the view of a young female victim grown old:
My father had already escaped by night and fog to Belgium and from there to our wonderful America. We had moved to an aunt who lived in a multistory apartment building on the top floor of the city of Breslau, Germany. We had very little to eat because we were not able to buy food in gentile grocery stores and the Jewish ones had been demolished. Our emaciated aunt had buried some eggs and parted with them that “the three children”, my baby brother, my teen age sister and I, could survive.
Without warning there was a loud knock at the door and a three man group of uniformed Nazis burst into the place. With the end of their rifles and sabers they slit open the fabric of our couch and chairs. The contents were everywhere, the Nazis screaming vituperations which consisted of vile and unspeakable names such as Drecks Juden, Stink Juden, and Schweine, as well as threats of instant annihilation of us all, one person at a time. They insisted that we had “secret” weapons in the house and we should turn them over immediately. We had none and could produce nothing of the sort. They called us rotten liars, thieves, spat at us and on the floor. They trampled down everything with their enormous boots. They sang the then famous song: Wenn’s Judenblut vom Messer spritzt dann geht’s nochmal so gut (when Jewish blood spurts from the knife, then life will be twice as good).
Terror gripped us all. My aunt and mother were speechless. I remember crawling into a corner. Without warning one of the Nazi murderers roughly picked me up, went to the window and held me out of the window by the collar of my dress. I held my breath as I witnessed the torture of other Jewish children on the street many stories below. The trauma of this occurrence has never left me, as similar atrocities have not left the heart and mind of so many other Jewish victims of the Nazis.
There was much much more until we escaped by night and fog from Breslau to Köln (Cologne) to Aachen, to Belgium and ultimately to the United States and to blessed freedom.
Let us never forget Kristallnacht, the Holocaust and the six million who suffered unspeakable atrocities in gas ovens, torture chambers from inhuman psychopaths like Mengele, Goebbels, Goering, Hitler and thousands of others like these. Let us remember that these persecutions must never, never, never happen again!