Join Rabbi Haber's mailing list:
Home What's New Blogs Store Dedications Weekly Parshah About TorahLab Contact Us Links


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Kristallnacht at Nine

I shared the following article with my fifth and sixth graders. I though it would be meaningful for them to read about the events of November 9th and 10th through the first hand experiences of a girl close to their age. The piece was written by Chamie’s grandmother, Mrs. F. Gottleib of Har Nof. May she continue to see many happy years. The article appeared in the Horizons magazine and is also available on as a PDF. Many thanks to Mr. Schor for providing the technology necessary to prepare this material.

By: F. Gottlieb
It was November 10, 1938, later to be called Kristallnacht. I was a young schoolgirl living in Mannheim, Germany, together with Mutti, (my mother), two sisters, and one brother. My second brother, the oldest of us five, was vacationing at the time in Bad Duerheim, since he suffered from asthma.
A few weeks before, on October 27, 1938, a Wednesday night, my father, z"tl, and a group of
other Polish nationals in Germany were arrested, each one walking between two Gestapo agents. We children were asleep, and thus were spared seeing this tragic event.
The next morning, October 28, 1938, Mutti broke the depressing news to us and took us with her to the jail where Papa was being held in custody with the other Polish Jewish men. We brought a suitcase for Papa and wanted to say good-bye to him. At first, one of the SS men refused to permit children in, but another SS man let us pass.
I’ll never forget the gloomy, dismal scene; it remains vivid in my mind. My father’s hair had turned white overnight. It was the first time I saw my father cry. (I had been under the impression that men don’t know how to cry.) We all were so sad, and tears were flowing freely. Bidding him farewell was devastating. I had so many unanswered questions. “What is going to happen now?” I felt like screaming, “No, no, don’t take him away. He is my Papa and I love him so.” These were my unspoken words, as I stifled heart-rending sobs. My anguish, grief and suffering were indescribable.
When we returned home, we children gave Mutti all the money we had saved, realizing the breadwinner was now gone. It wasn’t much, but we wanted to help. The Germans deported 1,925 Jews from Mamiheim and 1,906 from Karlsruhe to Zboncyn, which was on the border of Germany and Poland—“no-man’s land.” Germany wanted them out, and Poland didn’t want them in.
The hardships these people endured during and after deportation were often beyond description. For instance, for three months Papa didn’t undress. His jacket and vest served as his pillow. He intended to buy two rolls for supper one day, but needed the money for postage, and that he considered a priority. When he finally returned to us on July 19, 1939, he needed dentures. He’d lost all his teeth to malnutrition. Before his deportation, he never had a cavity.
On November 7, 1938, in retaliation for this event, Herschel Grynspan, the son of one of the deportees, entered the German Embassy in Paris with the intention of killing the German ambassador. Instead, he shot Ernst von Roth, the German third secretary. Von Roth’s death set off a day of anti-Semitic acts and riots that marked the beginning of the end of European Jewry: Kristallnacht.
The morning of November 10, 1938, I was walking to school. On the way, I met some Jewish acquaintances who cried, “Turn back! Go home! The synagogues are burning!” I didn’t need coaxing and immediately returned home. Of course, I was frightened. My mother, siblings, and another woman, who lived alone with her daughter, joined us to pass the uncertain and frightening hours. My mother, o “h, said Tehillim. The day dragged on and on.
In the early evening, we heard the SS men, with their heavy boots, stomping up the stairs. The landlord, a decent goy, tried to stop them by saying, “It is after 5:00 p.m. It’s past the curfew.” The SS men disregarded his warning and stormed in. “Wo ist der Jud?”—“Where is the Jew?” they shouted, marching from room to room, searching for my father.
This was the first time I was happy and grateful that Papa was in Zboncyn. Then, looking at the mezuzos on the doorposts, they asked, “What are these?” My mother calmly replied, “The ten commandments.” They tore them off and left. I guess that they, in a way, heeded the landlord’s words, “It’s past the curfew.”

During this “night of the broken glass”, nearly one hundred Jews lost their lives, over 30,000 were arrested, 191 synagogues and 75,000 Jewish stores were looted.
The SS men came to Uncle Hochmann’s house (my mother’s brother). He was sick in bed. One of the Gestapo men wanted to throw him out of the window, but another one remarked, “Forget about it, Der Jud wind so wie so verrecke—The Jew will croak anyway,” and they left. My aunt’s father in Duesseldorf did not fare as well. They threw him out of the window, and he was badly injured.
All meats and chickens were thrown out of the kosher butcher shop into the street. After that night, no more kosher meat products were available. Men were taken to Dachau, a concentration camp, store windows were smashed, and the riots continued uncontrolled.
This event changed my life. My childhood ended at nine and a half years.


Posted on 11/09 at 06:42 PM • Permalink
(0) Comments
Page 1 of 1 pages

Subscribe to this blog

RSS Feed

Meet Rabbi Sender Haber

Rabbi Sender Haber is the Rabbi of the B'nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk, VA. He is well known throughout Hampton Roads, having arrived over twelve years ago as one of the original four members of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel. In that capacity, Rabbi Haber was involved in community wide programming, teaching, and outreach. He has inspired many Jews to expand their Jewish identity and increase their love of Torah and commitment to its observance. Everyone who knows Rabbi Haber is touched by his breadth of Torah knowledge and his ability to convey the wisdom of the ages in such a way as to make those esoteric writings accessible to persons of all levels of experience and a variety of backgrounds.

Rabbi Haber has served in a number of capacities during his years in Norfolk. Since 2003 Rabbi Haber has been a teacher of Jewish Studies at Toras Chaim Day School in Portsmouth, teaching boys and girls of all ages, with a focus on Gemara, Halacha, and Chumash. He has also taught at Yeshivas Aish Kodesh and Bina High School in Norfolk, and served as Assistant Rabbi of B’nai Israel for 6 years. He also serves as the Rabbi of the “Lost Tribe,” Tidewater’s Jewish Motorcycle group! While handling all of these responsibilities, he has continued to participate in numerous Chavrusos (one-on-one learning partnerships) covering a wide range of topics and writings.

Rabbi Haber and his wife Chamie have been married for thirteen years. They have four children, Minna (9), Moshe (6), Ely (4), and Akiva Meir, born in August of 2012. They both come from rabbinic families steeped in Torah, Kiruv and Chesed. Rabbi Haber received his Rabbinic Ordination (Yoreh Yoreh) from Rabbi Sender Rosenbloom and Rabbi Mordechai Freidlander of the Jerusalem Beth Din. He was awarded a Teaching Certificate by Torah Umesorah Association for Jewish Day Schools in 2004 and again in 2009. In addition, Rabbi Haber has spent over a decade studying Talmud, Jewish Law, and ethics in some of the world’s most prestigious Yeshivos including Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, NJ and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted through the Synagogue office at 757-627-7358, or through e-mail at