“..You must first remember ..context of my experience. In 1938 ..I was 13 years old and had experienced Nazi Germany for ..last 5 years. I was 8 years old in 1933 when ..Nazi party took over ..German government. Even with this beginning event ..my whole lifestyle as a Jewish child changed drastically.” Werner Coppel.
I have no wish to omit one single Jew from within the term, The Holocaust. For that reason alone, I am overly cautious about where I would suggest we find the commencement date of the beginnings of the very atrocity attributed to its reach, depth and even terms of reference. For me, all or anything that would have confined any Jew, of any description, Male, Female or der Kinder, must be considered ever present in what Hitler fully intended for them all.
“..I was living in Hamburg at ..time. ..a student at an advanced preparatory school next to our synagogue. I remember we could look out ..windows of ..school and see ..synagogue. ..morning after Kristallnacht ..we could see just strands of glass where ..windows of ..synagogue had been destroyed. ..entire inside of ..synagogue had been burnt out. Our teacher got there in ..morning and then let us out early due to what had happened.” Hugo Eichelberg.
Therefore, we cannot ever discard from the narrative of Hitler’s constructed Final Solution of The Jewish Question, the very presence of any Murdered Jew. From the period of Hitler’s presence in any political guise, and during Hitler’s rise to, his coming to and the then approved power base of his brokerage of that power, the Jewish People were centre stage in what was a clearly Hitler’s murderous intention for all and any Jew. While supposition would promote the commencement of the overall catastrophe sometime after The Wannsee Conference, on January 20th. 1942.
“..All ..children gathered in ..synagogue every day. ..cub scouts and girl scouts were put together ..based on what training they had. There were Zionist overtones to our community ..ultimate goal was to return to Israel. When we were in ..synagogue ..we were not bothered with what was going on in ..outside world. It was in that very room in ..synagogue that I was able to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah in February of 1938. It was a very simple celebration with soft drinks and cake ..but it was held in a safe environment.” Werner Coppel.
This starting point is being considered while der Einsatzgruppe was already Murdering what would approach the Slaughter of 1,250,000 Jews. Even adhering to the jump off point for these roving bands of killers with Hitler’s attack on Russia, Operation Barbarossa on June 22nd. 1941, der Einsatzgrupope had previously scouted the arena of the mass murder of the Jews, though in a less intensive way. Here too though, with the Death Camp at Chelmno, which was adding to the approaching tragedy, and was indeed in operation on December 7th. 1941, these both preceded Wannsee.
“..Early in ..morning we suddenly heard loud banging on ..door to ..building and then shouts and boots stomping up the stairs. We didn’t know what was happening ..it was clear ..it was something terrible. We closed ..shutters facing ..street and sat on my parents’ bed at ..end of ..corridor. We hugged each other and trembled with fear.” Daniel Heiman.
A Death Camp competing with an arsenal of Murderer’s shooting their way through entire Jewish Community’s, murdering with increasing speed all Jews from along the length and breadth of a War Front, and in the case of Chelmno, all around the area of Poland with Lodz especially expelling its Jewish Ghetto Community increasingly regularly. So these commencement dates cannot be as definitive as some would state, and even with regards the case of The Wannsee Conference when this was largely convened so as Hitler could administratively procure an intention to inveigle all arms of the Reich in the Murder process.
“..There are some important things to keep in mind. Our Rabbi ..who played a great role in my growth and development ..refused to leave Germany ..but ..knew exactly what was going on. Much like a captain refusing to abandon ship ..he stayed. Also ..Hamburg was not at this time antisemitic. ..Nazis had to import people from southern Germany to do their dirty work in destroying Hamburg’s synagogues. ..people in Hamburg would not destroy anything ..not lay a finger on ..Jewish buildings. ..After Kristallnacht ..we moved to a Spanish ..Portuguese synagogue. It was not completely orthodox but we were able to make changes to make it work for us. We were ..only place in Germany that was still able to worship in a synagogue after Kristallnacht took place.” Hugo Eichelberg.
At this time though the apparatus of Jewish Destruction was not yet as refined as Hitler would demand. But soon Auschwitz, which was being sought out to convert a nearby site into Auschwitz II, for The Death Camp Birkenau. Also, and coming on stream were the Aktion Reinhard Death Camps at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka while Majdanek too would resolve for Hitler his one anticipated goal, the termination of all Jewiosh existence. All of which was practicably and fully formed in terms of mass murder though its administration could not yet inculcate all of Germany in Hitler’s resolve.
“..we heard ..noise of furniture being thrown from ..top floor to ..street ..then a terrible shout and a thud. They threw Mr. Ulfelder out of ..window ..he was killed.” Daniel Heiman.
Also, and there are two salient points of concern here relating fully to why many seem to insist upon a starting line for the commencement of The Holocaust. Please always bear in mind, what was termed, die Endlosung der Judenfrage was Hitler’s resolve and it was aimed at destroying all the Jews of Europe. This detailed Jewish assessment of routes to be taken toward a final end, which culminates in 6,000,000 of their number being annihilated, was as a resolve to this particular Final Solution of The Jewish Question.
“..We left Hamburg on ..last day of Passover and took a train to Italy. In Italy there were 2 boats ..Manhattan and ..Roma. ..Roma was an Italian boat ..but its passengers never got to depart because Mussolini did not allow ..ship to sail. I do not know what happened to ..passengers of that boat. My Mother and I were on ..Manhattan ..which left as scheduled ..sailed to New York. My Father left England 3 days later and we eventually met up in New York ..where we stayed for 11 weeks. After those 11 weeks ..we moved to Cincinnati ..where we had relatives.” Hugo Eichelberg.
From this it is very clear, and the very fact that a formative Einsatzgruppe had already been operating in, and Murdering Polish Jewry since Hitler Invaded Poland on September 1st. 1939, the contention arises which places the Einsatz murder process back nearly two years. Then there is the case of SS Sturbnnfuhrer Dr. Herbert Lange, the first kommandant at Chelmno. Lange had been Murdering the Jews of Lodz, and some within Chelmno as far back as April 20th. 1940 when he first took up his post. This decreases the relevance of Wannsee as both the Death Camp system and der Einsatzgruppe aktionen is way ahead in operationl terms.
“..While I was traveling to Dinslaken I heard in ..train that antisemitic riots had broken out everywhere and that many Jews had been arrested. Synagogues everywhere are burning.” Yitzhak Stephen Herz.
The Holocaust, in its murderous assault upon the Jewish People should not then deny the presence of any Murdered Jews demanded by Hitler’s hatred. So while we have a wish to recall and remember here, that at Kristallnacht this might be seen as a catalyst toward the escalating terms of the atrocity, this Pogrom too should not avail us of a start date for The Holocaust. The night of November 9th. and 10th. 1938, which should not deny any Jew who was Murdered anytime prior to this Pogrom from being a Jew of The Holocaust. For me, Kristallnacht also cannot be described as the commencement date for what is recognised as The Holocaust.
“..It happened on November 9th. I had heard 2 or 3 days earlier that vom Rath had been shot and killed by a Jewish boy in Paris. I had no idea what would happen later.” Werner Coppel.
While many studies might seek to state that the commencement of The Holocaust began with Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, that too would be erroneous. While this assault was indeed the promotion of a move from the rhetoric of hatred to the mob mentality of violent action’s, Jews had previously been Murdered under Hitler’s tutelage. Of what finally emerged as Hitler’s plan for the total destruction of the entirety of the Jewish People has not been confined to a single date, the Murder’s of the Jews themselves was conducted widely and throughout the period of Hitler’s presence as an antagonist of Jewish hatred.
“..Growing up ..we were told that we were ..ones who got out decades before ..Nazis destroyed our family’s hometowns. My Mother’s family came in ..first decades of ..20th. Century ..my Father’s family a decade or so later. All of my grandparents were born in ..United States ..attending public schools in Boston and Chicago when Kristallnacht hit Germany’s Jews in November 1938.” Ben Sales.
This Kristallnacht atrocity, which occured on the night of November 9th. and 10th. 1938 finally convinced the Jewish People that Hitler’s tone was no longer entirely rhetorical. Many 1,000’s of Jewish Men, Women and Their Children, and most of German Jewry as a body was more convinced than ever, that Hitler had crossed a rubicon of hatred. Now there was a steadier Nazi progression toward them and this was a more aggressive approach with a violence of intention being orchestrated. While the Jews had been severely hampered by legislation, The Nuremberg Laws passed on September 15th. 1935 were aimed at isolating, abusing and then severely and more brutally making them aware of their immediate predicament.
“..After Kristallnacht not only hell breaks loose in Germany ..but ..panic among Jewish citizens in surrounding countries.” Erica van Beek.
While some 50,000 Jewish Men in Germany were deported to a number of Concentration Camps, Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenburg and Sachsenhausen amongst them. In parallel to this many more of them were further deported back to their Country of origin, Poland especially. Heydrich here now provides Goering with the list of those interred under a protective custody order. Of the many 1,000’s of German, Austrian and even Sudeten Synagogues, more than 1,400 of these were defiled, desecrated or otherwise damaged. A conservative estimate suggests that some 267 of these were totally Burned out and Destroyed.
“..I lived in Moers ..a small town with a very small Jewish community. There were about 220 Jews in my community ..and only about 22 Jewish children. Our whole life centered on a small room in our town’s synagogue ..which was our safe haven from ..outside world and from Nazi Germany. At this point in time ..Jews were not allowed on playgrounds or in parks. We were not allowed entrance to movies or restaurants. There were signs that stated ..Jews and dogs prohibited ..or ..Jews die in ..gutter.” Werner Coppel.
On top of this, 7,500 Jewish Shops, Warehouses, Cemetery’s and various other Jewish Businesses and whole Enterprises and Homes were either looted, destroyed or both. Tombs were broken into and smashed, as were gravetones which were uprooted and the graves violated. Bonfires were set and all combustibles, Torahs, other prayer books and scrolls, exquisite artwork and furniture were piled high and set ablaze. The desecration of anything considered sacred to Jewish antecedence was vandalised at the least, obliterated at the extreme. This Night was the single most decisive assault upon the integrity of the Jewish People since Hitler came to power.
“..What do you think about ..synagogues burning. All those synagogues ..all those ..Torahs ..all that glass breaking in ..stores. Next thing they’ll be burning Jews.” Yitzhak Stephen Herz.
We saw too that more than 240 German, Austrian and former Czech Sudetenland Jews, and those Jews from other nations caught up in the violence, all were murdered. The illusion had now been lifted and Jewry as a whole was more accepting of fleeing their Homelands, Homes and Livelihoods rather than risk what prospect might lay ahead. Within the coming months the race to exit steadily grew apace and as Hitler’s hatred boiled over into brutal excess, we recognise that more than 200,000 of the 500,000 Jews who had been on the German 1933 Census had already emigrated.
“..Michelsberg Synagogue of Wiesbaden. ..this large and imposing edifice was totally destroyed during the November 10 th. 1938 murderous devastation known as Kristallnacht ..various congregations combined into one. ..we worshipped at a smaller synagogue at a different address. This Friedrichstrasse Synagogue escaped burning ..was looted ..desecrated.” Charlotte Guthmann Opfermann.
However, there was a dual purpose of concern that was not limited to Jews exiting the Country but where were these Jews to go and who wanted them. For me it is a question History will never answer as to why these nations did not open their doors a little wider to save ever more of these now brutalised Jews. More than 9,000 of these Jews fled to Poland and into harms way, while more than 2,000 fleeing Jews made it to the relative safety of Palestine. Of course, this desire to remove themselves and so mitigate their fears barely applied to those Jews who could ill afford to leave. The emerging and vociferous call for a more resolute Solution to The Jewish Question was gaining a prominence within Hitler’s inner circle.
“..We were aware of ..Nazis and events in Germany from ..newspapers. I remember ..incident at Zbaszyn when ..Polish citizens were expelled from Germany and were forced to return to Poland. This led up to Kristallnacht ..which happened in Germany. I remember that one refugee family did not have a place to live ..and my father gave them a room.” Eva Galler.
Jewry’s existence, under the steely gaze of a more repugnant Hitler, would be fatally altered here at Kristallnacht. For all time, The Holocaust would be seen from the very intrinsic move toward a more exacting resolve than mere words had previously suggested. Once Kristallnacht was augmented with such an extreme violence, Jewish lives were put under immense and perilous pressure. While German troops and civilians acted with impunity, SA and even SS knives were brought to the fore as Jewish life itself became an expendable commodity.
“..We saw them starting to march on ..streets and ..next day ..all ..stores already had signs saying ..Juden sind hier unerwunscht ..Jews are not wanted here. ..Jewish stores ..they wrote Jude on them and all kinds of things happened. ..I see my Mother ..cleaning ..street. ..They took her to clean up. ..She didn’t want me to stay there. ..I cried tremendously and I didn’t go home ..I stayed there. ..people ..had no compassion whatsoever. ..full of hate. All of them. All of them. ..In ..winter they came and picked up my Father and Mother and we had to shovel ..snow. We had to shovel snow for hours. ..people were standing around laughing.” Thea Rumstein.
Into this mix, which flowed with the wealth, assets, property’s and titles of more and more Jews and straight into Hitler’s bulging pockets. Many Jewish Community’s, especially from Rural areas, were forced out toward major Centres and were compelled to congregate amongst their Jewish City neighbours. Now fully fending for themselves, the Jewish People saw Kristallnacht for what it was, an attack upon their very existence. As social welfare efforts were adopted, and increasingly more urgently by the Reich’s Deputation of the German Jews, this Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden, reacted.
“..war broke out very soon after ..Germany invaded Poland ..and England and France got involved. My father went to Scotland Yard and informed ..English that he had family in Germany. Before we could leave to join him ..however ..my Mother was called to meet ..Gestapo ..where they asked her about my Father. ..Gestapo had intercepted a letter ..and on ..7th day of ..Passover ..Gestapo gave me and my Mother 24 hours to leave Germany ..or we would be arrested.” Hugo Eichelberg.
However, the reality was not being lost that insufficient funding would not avail all of assistance. With a collective of agencies, numbering some 19 diverse groups of concered Jews now came together to administer Jewish relief, assurance and a modicum of hope. With some $400,000,000 of fines levied by Hitler through Goering and against German Jewry for the Kristallnacht destruction, German Jewry was forced to pay for the harm and damage done to them. This procurement was authored on December 12th. 1938 and for an assault that had been railed against the Jewish People, for being Jews in their own German lands.
“..What took place yesterday ..we know ..what will be tomorrow ..we do not know ..but what happens today ..that we have witnessed ..outside this church ..synagogue is burning ..and that also is a house of God.” Bernhard Lichtenberg.
The World had now become witness to an escalating tragedy for German, Austria and Sudeten Jewry. The World could not now remain ignorant nor indifferent as it was now cognizant of what Hitler’s clear intentions for the Jewish People was. Let us not forget that with the judicious enactment that was setting forth the legally immoral Nuremberg Laws of 1935, and with the very evident destruction of Jewish Life during the Kristallnacht Pogrom, Hitler’s verbal rhetoric is now becoming more violently stated and punitive.
“..During that time there were ..brown shirts ..SA and ..black shirts ..SS. ..They had a quota for ..number of Men they had to arrest. They sat in front of ..home of our rabbi ..but for some reason he was not arrested. My father was also not arrested ..despite ..fact that we lived just across ..courtyard from an SS. Many others were imprisoned and interned in ..camps. My family decided it was best if my father left Germany. In June ..1939 ..all his papers were in order ..and he left for England in September of 1939.” Hugo Eichelberg.
Then, for the damage of Kristallnacht to be paid for by the Jews themselves, Jewish presence in any lands bordering Hitler’s grasping Weltanschauung, his prospective Wroldview, became untenable. With both a visibly and now physically stated intention, the humiliation of the Jewish People is being given over further to their physical eradication. Few in the West could now doubt the intention of Hitler was only to deal more brutally with a Jewish presence. Even though the terms of the murderous reference had not been clearly expressed or even identified, it was given sovereignty.
“..Most Holocaust reflections are personal and not communal. ..Most do not gather up ..shards of glass from Kristallnacht and surround their art with them.” Yitzhak Stephen Herz.
The eventual solution was finally moving toward the end resolve for the resolution of ‘The Jewish Question.’ Here in History, and out of the flames of so much broken glass, hope and expectation, the Kindertransport was borne. From this physical shock wave of hatred, we will many 1,000’s of Jewish Children eventually arrive in Britain and accept their safety is secured. Tragically, and without realising it, the true extent to which they would lose all touch with their Parents, Families and Friends was to be expressed in the destructive capacity of the Death Camps.
“..After Kristallnacht we succeeded in getting a sizable number of Jews to Palestine. That was thanks to ..Captain Frank Foley who did all he could to enable Jews to immigrate. ..he saved 1,000’s of Jews from death.” Benno Cohn.
That clearer capacity was to consume many 1,000,000’s of their most dearest. For a deep sigh of regret for having to do so, I place before you a series of names. Here, where Synagogues once resided peaceably and were attacked and either Destroyed wholly, were looted, damaged or desecrated in a myriad of ways, their names are known. If nothing else is to be drawn from this, civilising humanity was burned down during Kristallnacht. Not just in these Towns or City’s where Synagogues were set to flame but in the hearts and minds of individuals who saw nothing wrong in the assault upon their Jewish Neighbours.
“..Now as I look back 70 years later ..lesson for all of us is that what happened in Germany was a consequence of racism ..hate ..and prejudice. Every new generation must be aware that ..cancer of hate and prejudice is also with us today. ..no way anyone can walk away from messages that contain racism ..prejudice. ..You must always stand up against racism and prejudice ..even if you are not being directly persecuted.” Werner Coppel.
The names of these Towns and City’s are chosen at random for the Synagogues presence amidst the conflagration. They are now merely an indication of the more widespread atrocity that was filtering through German, Austrian and Sudeten civilised society. Given the insurmountable challenge to Jewish persistance, how can we ever reclaim what was taken from them. I am certain too that at the time, we have lost much of the detail of the very exacting nature of all the crimes committed in the name of Kristallnacht of those consumed in its reach.
“..When we entered ..house we saw ..destruction. ..all ..closets and furniture had been turned over ..their contents spread all over ..floor. Everything was in ruins with broken glass and precious crystals. In ..midst of it all my aunt sat in shock.” Daniel Heiman.
For lack of space, and for the time constraints of such a testimonial piece as this, I do not have a permit for a far more widespread indictment. I have always stated my commitment to those Jews of The Holocaust is not just in recalling their presence and their traversing through our time, but it is an accusation of our great wrong, in terms of a so called christian action. Of all that was done by all those who sought to achieve this atrocity, we cannot enable History to forget what was achieved and how it was achieved by both the doers and the bystanders. Know then that the assault upon the Jewish Synagogue was an attack upon Jews caught in the flames of a hatred that had been fanned by Hitler and those like him.
“..All ..synagogues in Germany were destroyed. In our town ..synagogue was not burned ..because if it was burned it would have burned down ..entire block ..and ..Nazis did not want this. However ..no one stopped them from destroying ..entire inside of ..synagogue. This changed my entire life ..as this had been our safe haven. ..Kristallnacht ..every Jewish male had to add ..name ..Israel ..and every Jewish female had to add ..name ..Sarah. ..I became Werner Israel Coppel. My entire social life stopped ..and life changed direction completely. I was ..sent to Auschwitz in 1945.” Werner Coppel.
Aach, Aachen, Ahaus, Ahrensburg, Allenstein, Alpen, Altdorf, Altenstadt, Amberg, Anklam, Annaberg, Arnswalde, Arolsen, Auerbach.
Bacharach, Baden-Baden, Bamberg, Bassum, Bautzen, Bayruth, Berlin, Bernberg, Bibra, Bielefield, Billerbeck, Bocholt, Bochum, Bodenfeld, Bonn, Borken, Braunschweig, Bremen, Breslau, Brieg, Bruhl, Buchen, Bunde, Burgdorf, Bytom.
Celle, Cham, Chemnitz, Coburg, Cologne, Cosel, Cottbus, Cranz, Creglingen.
Dahn, Dannenberg, Darmstadt, Dillingen, Dobling, Dorsten, Dortmund, Dramburg, Dresden, Drossen, Duren, Dusseldorf.
Eberbach, Eberswalde, Efringen, Ellrich, Emmerich, Erfurt, Erlangen, Eschau, Eschwege, Essenheim, Essingen.
Fasanenstrasse, Festenberg, Flacht, Flatow, Floss, Forst, Frankenthal, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Freienwalde, Freystadt, Friedrichstadt, Furstenwalde.
Gallingen, Gelsenkirchen, Gemund, Gerden, Gernsbach, Gliwice, Glockengasse, Goch, Goldbach, Gollnow, Gorlitz, Goslar, Graben, Greifenberg, Guttentag.
Halberstadt, Halle, Hamm, Hanover, Harburg, Heidelberg, Heilbron, Hietzinger, Hockenheim, Hofheim, Horb.
Ihringen, Illereichen, Illingen, Ingolstadt, Irrel.
Jastrow, Jauer, Jebnitz, Jever.
Kaiserlautern, Karlsruhe, Kassel, Kiel, Kirchheim, Kirf, Konigsberg, Konstanz, Koslin, Krefeld, Krojanke, Kuppenheim, Kusel.
Labbes, Lahr, Lambsheim, Landau, Landeshut, Landsberg, Lauenburg, Leipzig, Leopoldstadter, Liegnitz, Linz, Lubbecke, Lubeck, Lunen, Lyck.
Magdeburg, Mainz, Mannheim, Marienburg, Marburg, Mayern, Memmigen, Meppen, Mohrungen, Moringen, Mosbach, Munich,
Nalbach, Namslau, Naugard, Neidenburg, Netra, Neudeggergasse, Neuenkirchen, Neustadt, Nordhausen, Nuremberg.
Oedheim, Oels, Ohlau, Oldenburg, Opole, Oppeln, Oppenheim, Osann, Osnabruck, Osterode, Osthofen, Ottensoos.
Pappenheim, Pasewalk, Pazmaniten, Peine, Plauen, Plettenberg, Polnische, Potsdam.
Ratibor, Ratzebuhr, Reckendorf, Regensburg, Riesenburg, Rimbach, Robel, Rosenberg, Rosenthal, Rostock, Rothnburg, Rottweil, Rummelsburg, Rust.
Saalfeld, Saarbrucken, Sagan, Salzburg, Schlochau, Schwelm, Schwerin, Seeburg, Semper, Siegen, Soest, Sommerfeld, Sontra, Sorau, Spandau, Speyer, Stettin, Stolp, Storkow, Stuttgart, Suhl.
Talheim, Tann, Taplau, Templin, Themar, Tilsit, Trachenberg, Treis, Treuburg, Tubingen, Tutz, Twistringen.
Vienna, Vierheim, Viersen, Vietz, Vilshofen, Vohl.
Waldorf, Walsrode, Wangen, Warburg, Wehlau, Wertheim, Wiesbaden, Wilhelmshaven, Windsheim, Wollin, Worms, Worstadt, Worth, Wuppertal, Wurzburg.
Zell, Zeven, Ziebingen, Zielenzig, Zullichau, Zulz, Zwickau.
“..I look back ..it is important to realize that this can happen in any country. It is not an isolated event in Germany. We must make our own destiny.” Hugo Eichelberg.