The night of November 9th / 10th, known as kristallnacht ( the night of the broken glass) is the anniversary of one of the most terrible and horrifying events that led to the intensifying of Nazi pogroms against Jews and the ‘final solution’ of the Holocaust.
In one night over 1600 synagogues were ransacked and torn apart and 267 were burnt to the ground. Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and Austria were destroyed and broken glass from shattered windows littered the streets.
Thirty thousand Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps, amongst them, my grandfather.
There is no shortage of terrifying and heart rending stories – many of which almost defy belief - about the suffering that Jews went through and the sacrifices they made to help each other and retain their own sense of humanity.
And there are stories of people who survived the Nazi hell and took their horrifying experiences and used them to ensure that others would not have to suffer the feeling of being without family or home – like Hanna Bar Yesha below.
The story told below ( which you may have seen as it went viral on the internet this month) is slightly different as Alice Sommer Herz was a concert pianist and this saved her life when she was chosen to be in the camp orchestra in Theresienstadt. Theresienstadt was a ‘so-called’ model concentration camp that the Germans built to try and convince the world that all their concentration camps were as humane and holiday-camp like as this one . Here the starving inmates, under threat of immediate extermination, had to play music, sing in choirs and perform plays to show how cultured and fun their life was.
Her love of life and appreciation of everything she has is an inspiration to us all. She bears no hatred for anyone which could be the reason that at 106, apart from being the oldest Holocaust survivor, she also still plays her beloved piano regularly and entertains her many friends every day in her flat. Her ‘simchat chaim’ joy of life on a daily basis is an inspiration to us all.
UNFORTUNATELY THE 12 MINUTE VIDEO IN WHICH ALICE DESCRIBES HER LIFE IN THE CAMP, HER MUSIC AND HER LIFE NOW HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE INTERNET SINCE THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN.
I HOPE YOU MANAGED TO SEE IT SOMEWHERE IT WAS TRULY INSPIRING .
In a post several months ago I told of another story that took place in Theresienstadt , the setting up of a beautifully decorated, hidden synagogue.
The descendents of Asher Berlinger who risked his life to build and decorate this shul are still looking for anyone who actually saw this shul while they were in the camp during the war.
Thank G’d my parents and both sets of grandparents escaped from Germany and, compared to so many others, did not suffer torments at the hands of the Nazis. The Holocaust was rarely mentioned in our home when I was a child, as far as I can remember, and it was only as a teenager that I started to think about it.
Nevertheless, in some way I still think of myself as a 2nd generation survivor with an obligation to ensure that our children and grandchildren don’t just think of this as another part of Jewish history.
The reverberations of the Holocaust are still with us. Holocaust denial is an accepted contagious disease spreading throughout the Western world and neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, in many forms and disguises, are getting stronger every day.
We’d be blind fools to think it couldn’t happen again.