Skip to main content

Search the Special Collections and Archives Portal

Essay on Kristallnacht by Henry Schuster, no date



Digital ID


In October of 1938, the German government ordered all police stations throughout Germany to round up all Jews of Polish Descent for deportation to Poland. This included people that came to Germany as children. Many had lived in the various cities in Germany for decades. Zindel Greenspan owned his own home and business. He was an intricate part of the city of Hamburg. He and his entire family was rounded up and forced to the Polish border. All his property and most of his holdings were confiscated. For a period of time, he and many others lived in "no man's land" until Poland allowed them into their country. All those arrested were forced to pay for their own transportation. Zindel's oldest son was living in Paris with his uncle while attending school. When young Greenspan became aware of his family' plight, he became outraged and decided to get some revenge. With his gun in his pocket, he arrived at the German Embassy to kill the Ambassador. The ambassador was not available, therefore he shot the deputy, Ernst Rath.. Rath died three days later. This was conceived as a Jewish conspiracy against Germany. It is also known as the beginning of the end. On November 9th, Josef Goebels, the number three man in the Nazi hierarchy, went on the government radio station to spout his venom. He used the Paris incident to incite the Nazis to go on a rampage to burn Synagogues, destroy all Jewish prayer books, and especially the Torahs. The Storm Troopers looted Jewish businesses as well as Jewish homes. They smashed thousands of windows during the night of November 9, 1938, therefore this night became known as Kristallnacht. On November 10th all Jewish men between the ages of 18 to 65 were arrested, beaten, mishandled and forced them to an assembly place. All of this was planned will in advance as the Concentration Camps of Dachau and Buchenwald were established to receive the multitudes. Prior to their incarceration, these men were forced to clean up the mess the looters left behind. The following rules became effective immediately: Jews were required to turn over all precious metals Pensions of all types were eliminated Jewish owned stocks, bonds, jewelry and art works were confiscated Jews were required to surrender drivers' licenses and were forbidden to own radios A total curfew was imposed. No Jew was allowed on the streets between 9PM and 5 AM Men who could prove that they had the means to leave Germany and Austria within 48 hours were released. Many of those that were incarcerated never saw their loved ones again. On November 12, Goering called a meeting of the top Nazi leadership to assess the damage done during November 9th and 10th. Present at that meeting were Goebels, Heydrich, Walter Fund and several other. The topic of discussion was the "Final Solution" By November 9th, I was already at the Jewish Orphanage in Frankfurt for two years. My life during those years was wonderful. We all were a big happy family. The director, his wife and adult advisors were kind loving people. We all loved them very much. Bang!! It all stopped on the infamous "Night of the Broken Glass." At that point girls and boys of approximately eighty strong felt that we were siblings and would be a family until we reached young adulthood. In the early evening the boys from the second floor and the girls from the ground floor were assembled in the main dining room. Uncle Isador (the director) informed us as to what was happening. He assured us that no harm would come to us. He believed that there would be no action against children. We all accepted his strong belief that our life would go on normally. Many of us felt the he knew differently and only wanted to protect us. I don't think that we slept very much that night. We could smell the heavy smoke in the air from the burning of the various Synagogues in the area. The Synagogue on the premises was not in danger at that point. The morning of the 10th, we attended services as usual. Several hoodlums came in and harassed us. They took the Torahs out of the ark and totally desecrated them. They left without hurting anyone, Mr. Marx, our Uncle Isador assembled all of us in the dining room again. To calm us down he told us stories and led us in singing. The anxiety was extremely high. At around noon, several Jewish men from the neighborhood came looking for refuge. Uncle Isador told all of them not to come in the dining room and advised them to go into the Synagogue. During lunch we heard some commotion coming from the Synagogue. A group of Brown Shirts came and beat these men profusely and forced them into the dining room. They dragged one old man by his beard. They then proceeded to swing their clubs wildly. As they were looking for additional men, they arrested our male councilors and several of the older boys. The place was in total chaos from the screaming and crying. Several women councilors took charge and finally calmed us down. Isador Marx was not taken. He crawled under a table and was hidden with a tablecloth hanging from a table. After the gang left, he took control and we more or less calmed down. Red cabbage was one of the dishes that were served for lunch. For many, many years I could not even look at red cabbage. Two days later our councilors and the older boys returned with stories of horror. They looked harassed and we could see they had been beaten. In the next few days many children were brought by their mothers to ask that they be accepted into the orphanage as they had no way to care for them. The influx was so large that now we all shared our beds with them. I wish to tell the story of what happened in the town of my birth. This is the account of my cousin Norbert Schuster and corroborated by others that survived November 10, 1938 in Sterbfritz. At this time there were still approximately fifty Jews living in Sterbfritz. A group of hoodlums form another town came and destroyed our Synagogue. They looted all Jewish homes and beat the men. One man was hiding on the upper floor of his house. They came and threatened throw him out of the window. He was a veteran ofWWI. He was badly wounded. He showed them he was awarded the Iron Cross. That meant nothing to them. They proceeded to throw him out the window. He survived and was taken and shipped with the rest of the men to an assembly place to be taken to Buchenwald. My cousin Norbert was not harmed. One of his former Gentile friends warned him on the night of the ninth as to what was going to happen. Norbert ran from his home into the nearest forest. On his way he saw a shepherd with his flock. It so happened that they knew each other. Norbert confided to the shepherd what was about to happen. The shepherd invited Norbert to stay with him that night in his mobile wagon. Early in the morning, they saw two men coming towards the shepherd. This good man asked Norbert to lay flat on the ground and proceeded to have his dogs round up the sheep and totally hide Norbert among them. The two men approached the shepherd and asked if he saw a Jew coming this way. He answered yes, he did and pointed towards town and said that he saw a man running past him. They left satisfied. Director Marx decided that we from the orphanage would no longer attend the Jewish School, because of the danger that would be present by walking to and from the school. Very often prior to, Kristallnacht we were confronted by the "Hitler Jugend" (Hitler Youth). Effectively on November 10, 1938 my education ceased until I came to the United States.