Eyewitness to Kristallnacht

I will never forget seeing the unimaginable horror of the night and the following day 77 years ago. By luck, my parents were not in Berlin. I was at my grandmother’s. Through the window I could see my beautiful synagogue engulfed in flames as desperate screams rose from the street below. Each knock on our apartment door brought terror, followed by incredible relief. By some miracle, two of my uncles made it to my grandmother’s seeking safety from the savagery of this night.

The next morning as I wandered through my neighborhood, I saw shards of plate glass everywhere, as every Jewish-owned shop had been looted and painted with vile Jew-hating slogans. Uniformed Nazis and their sympathizers were having fun as they surveyed their brutality. One group looked at a large stain on the street that was said to be the blood of a Jew. Even now I can hear their laughter.

At that moment, I was an 8-year-old who had suddenly turned 18. My every thought turned to survival. When my parents returned, I told my father that I would never live to see my ninth birthday. He took my hand and told me that he would always protect me and that nothing would happen to our family—because he had been a decorated front-line soldier during the 1914-18 World War.