Memories of the Crystal Night

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Kristallnacht – Recollections



A brutal and massive attack on Jews throughout the German Reich took place on the night of November 9, 1938, into the next day of November 10.  The Germans had long been looking for some reason to annihilate all the Jewish inhabitants who had been maltreated for years before this criminal deed.

            A seventeen-year-old Jewish boy Herschel Grynszpan in Paris avenged the brutal treatment of his father by shooting a member of the German Embassy staff.  On October 27, Grynszpan’s family and more than fifteen thousand other Jewish people had been expelled from Germany without warning and forcibly transported by boxcars/trains and dumped at the Polish border. The killing by Grynszpan was prompted by this atrocity and it gave Adolf Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels the opportunity to incite the Germans to brutalize all Jews en masse.

            On November 9th, mob violence broke out as the German police stood by and sadistic crowds of spectators watched  Nazi storm troopers along with members of the SS and Hitler Youth beat, tortured and murdered Jews.  Spectators happily assisted the mob in brutalizing innocent Jewish people.  They spat into the faces of the helpless victims, pulled their beards and scalp hair, dragged their bodies into streets and committed unbelievable atrocities to men, women and children.

            All over Germany, Austria Jewish shops and department stores had their windows smashed and contents destroyed and looted.  Synagogues were burned, and torah scrolls were desecrated, torn and scattered.

            About twenty five thousand Jewish men were rounded up and eventually sent to concentration camps where they were brutalized by SS guards and beaten to death.  The Jewish people had to pay for the damage that the Nazis had caused.  They had to bring their earthly possessions, including radios, candlesticks, jewelry and money to designated Nazi stations, thus leaving them bereft.

            The Nazi killers/leaders, including Goebbels, Heydrich, and Goering, decreed that all Jews be barred from any contact with Germans by excluding them from public transportation, schools, hospitals, etc. Any insurance that was due a Jewish person was to be turned over to the “German Government”.  Any variance of doing what was demanded meant certain death.  Goering was said to have made the statement: “I would not like to be a Jew in Germany”.

            With the help of my beloved mother, “ole vescholom”, my father escaped to Belgium by night and fog.  We fled to Breslau with my two siblings, ages two and eleven.  There we lived in a cold apartment with my single  aunt.  Again, because of my Mom’s courage and exceptional faith and intelligence, to say nothing of her generosity, she assisted my two cousins to escape the country.  One took his new bride to Sweden, the other went with skis to Czechoslovakia  and from there to Israel (then called Palestine). The landlady in the apartment, an avid Nazi, took the one toy, a pair of skates, and blackmailed us for the last possessions we had.  Nazi SS came armed with swords on Kristallnacht and ran their sabers through the couch and stuffed chairs looking for “weapons”, of which we had none.  They held me out of a multi storied window and threatened to toss me out of it.  For some unknown reason the one Nazi pulled me back inside.  Children were screaming out of other windows and I held my breath and could not look.  My voice was stilled within me.  (Previous to these horrors I had already been raped by an unsavory Nazi criminal who rode his bicycle into the apartment downstairs hallway and stilled my voice with stuffing a dirty handkerchief in my mouth).

            From a distance the next day we saw fires and learned that Jewish books (any book written by Jewish authors) were being burned in the streets. The smoke and flames seemed to be reaching the heavens.  We must never, never  forget Kristallnacht and the everlasting destruction and death that followed! 

 Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of  Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).

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