Edited by: JV Staff
On November 9, 1938, the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitary forces initiated a coordinated two-day wave of violence against Jews across Germany and parts of Austria. The Nazi SA set fire to synagogues, burning prayer books and Torahs as they went. They confiscated property and vandalized Jewish-owned businesses. The broken glass from storefronts led some to call it, euphemistically, Kristallnacht, or “night of broken glass.” But this focus on damaged property is a Nazi construct; today the more commonly used term to describe these events is Reichspogromnacht, which acknowledges the shift away from rhetorical attacks and anti-Jewish legislation to physical violence, with horrendous human costs: massive arrests, beatings and murders of Jewish citizens.
The antisemitic pogrom stretched into November 10, 1938, and would become the turning point for social and legal exclusion of Jews from Nazi German society.
“That was the start of what they called the ‘Kristallnacht,’ the Crystal Night, where they went into all the Jewish homes and broke all their dishes and their crystal and their chandeliers and whatever. That is when it really started, when you really found out that you haven’t - it’s going to be bad. Before that, you’d tolerate it. You could tolerate what was happening because nothing really was happening, especially for you personally … then is when it started. It wasn’t until November, until the Crystal Night.” – Maximillian K., Holocaust survivor
“Somebody told us the synagogue is burning. My father took me and we went to the synagogue. There we saw the SS and SA, drunk and having a bonfire with all the prayer books.” – Herbert K., Holocaust survivor
Through the voices of those who were there, who witnessed these crimes, we can - now 82 years later - connect viscerally to the fear and pain experienced by survivors of the Reichspogromnacht and the Holocaust that followed. To mark the anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, producer of the podcast “Those Who Were There: Voices from the Holocaust,” is going “beyond the podcast” to connect the public with first-hand testimony from individuals who witnessed the attacks on November 9 and 10, 1938, and the Nazi reign of terror.
Testimonies of Survivors: Watch & Listen
Maximillian K.: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHXnV_DHUoy/
Herbert K.: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHXnffBnRMB/
Betty C.: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHXnsG9HNfo/
Murray C.: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHXn0BPH8uG/
Geoffrey H.: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHXn-Z8nY8R/
“Your bank account was confiscated. There was no say for you, nothing. You were a Jew and this is what happened to the Jews …” – Betty C., Holocaust survivor
“Well, how can I describe it … It was one of the saddest things that I ever did. I took a Torah scroll and threw it into the burning fire. I don’t know if I ever can convey to anybody that feeling, when you have to destroy something that’s sacred to you. My own tallis and tallis Beutel I had to throw into the fire.” – Murray C., Holocaust survivor
The commemoration of this horrendous event provides an invaluable opportunity to communicate the history of the Holocaust to younger generations who may know little about the events leading up to the genocide of European Jewry, its historical significance and impact, or the warning it continues to hold for our present and future. On the anniversary of Reichspogromnacht, the Fortunoff Archive is releasing excerpts from # testimonies to its social media channels that go “beyond the podcast,” to share the stories of survivors whose experiences are directly tied to the events of November 9 and 10th.
“I remember signs, ‘Juden verboten,’ Jews not permitted. When you’re young, you register it as frightening and yet it is not necessarily terrifying. It is somehow part of the physical reality of things. A sign like that was frightening but it was also reality. You accepted it as part of reality. Something you had to figure out … It was there - it was always there - this sense that Jews were restricted.” – Geoffrey H. Holocaust survivor
Survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust provided their testimony to the archive at great psychological cost. Nonetheless, many chose to speak because they believed it was important to share their story and document what they experienced, and the terrible fate of their families, in the hope that we might learn from the past.
Since 1979, the organization that became the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies has been recording the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses; today, the archive holds over 4,400 testimonies. As we observe the 82nd anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht, it is our obligation to listen to those who experienced these events first-hand - and to learn from them.
(Originally published at medium.com)
Stephen Naron, director of Yale University’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, reflects on the testimonies of Holocaust survivors who witnessed Reichspogromnacht