Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

A Kristallnacht Journey
Herbert Silberman
b. Lemförde, Germany, 1920

At about 2:00 P.M. on November 9, 1938, a group of SS men walked into the meat market in Altena, Germany, where I was working as a butcher. They immediately began to destroy the store, breaking all the windows and contaminating the meat, all the while shouting anti-Semitic slogans. After they left, I decided to go to my grandparents' house in Schermbeck where my mother and sisters were.

I left after dark to catch the train to Wesel where I had to transfer. When I arrived in Wesel, I thought I would look up my uncle's parents who lived near the station. It was a short walk. But when I got there, I found no one in the house. All the windows had been broken and all the contents destroyed.

Walking back to the train station, I saw that the sky was lit up with flames; there was a lot of smoke. The synagogue was burning! The whole building was engulfed in flames. I was afraid to get too close because there was so much noise from the voices of the Nazis shouting. There was no fire-fighting equipment.

I fled the horrible scene, heading back to the station where I took the night train to Schermbeck.

My grandparents' house in Schermbeck was about a half-hour walk from the station. When I arrived, again no one was at home. A neighbor, who was a childhood friend of my grandfather, was standing in front of his house across the street.

I asked him, “Where is my family?” “I am not allowed to talk to you, he said, and walked into his house, closing the door.

We had always thought of this neighbor as a good person; he was not a member of the Nazi party. But he was afraid to talk to me because I was a Jew.

I went into my grandparents' house. The front door was broken, the furniture inside overturned and broken. The feather beds and pillows had been slashed, and there were feathers all over the house. The windows were smashed and food had been thrown all over the floor.

Since my grandparents were elderly, I went to the nearby hospital to look for them. They were indeed there, together with my mother and two sisters. After about thirty minutes, the head nurse told us that a call had come from the Bürgermeister that we would have to leave there immediately. We all walked back to the house.

-18-

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