Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

II
The Destruction of a Society

A keynote of German social policy was racism. To the Nazis, the Jews were lowest on the scale of humanity. To create a racially pure Aryan society—to “save” Germany—Jewish people, Jewish society, had to be eliminated before any other undesirable group.

This policy was instituted gradually in Germany. It began in the early 1930s with book burnings and a skillfully conducted propaganda campaign against the Jews. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws denied citizenship, property, and means of livelihood to Jews. A signal event was Kristallnacht: November 9, 1938, the “Night of Shattered Glass” in which Jewish synagogues, schools, homes, and hospitals throughout the country were destroyed. After that, the Germans began arresting Jews and shipping them to concentration camps.

The policy of racial hatred and destruction of Jewish society was carried out in other countries, such as Austria and Czechoslovakia, where Germany occupied the land or attained power in the late 1930s. Many local people, continuing their historical anti-Semitism, willingly collaborated with the German occupiers. But in these countries, the destruction was carried out in more sudden ways. Jews were quickly denied rights, humiliated, beaten, jailed, killed. They were resettled in ghettos and then deported to death camps.

When Germany invaded Poland in 1938, Poland fell at once and was divided between Germany and its then-ally, the Soviet Union. Soviet occupation was bad enough. But then in 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and occupied the previously Polish-controlled parts of Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus. The German regime of terror began immediately in these areas.

Many Jews, especially in 1930s Germany, found it hard to believe how serious the growing signs of imminent danger were. And many Jews, especially in other countries, simply didn't know what was happening. In any case, the early events of the Holocaust struck with sudden, cruel blows. The writers in this section tell of their shock and horror as they watched the emblems and institutions of their society being destroyed. In “An Action against the Jews, ” “Kristallnacht” is the moving cry of a boy witnessing the burning of his synagogue; he experiences the pain of all German Jews when sacred and secular Jewish structures were senselessly trashed. In “The Sandwich” the same writer's

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xiii
  • Timeline of the Holocaust xv
  • Map of Concentration Camps in Europe xxviii
  • Preface xxix
  • Introduction xxxiii
  • I - Snapshots: Jewish Life Before the Holocaust 1
  • Snapshots 2
  • War Arrives in Lithuania 3
  • A German Family 7
  • Betrayal 11
  • Parting 13
  • II - The Destruction of a Society 15
  • Herr B. 17
  • A Kristallnacht Journey 18
  • An Action Against the Jews 20
  • Leaving Germany, Leaving Home 24
  • Escape to England 26
  • The Best-Laid Plans 28
  • A Life-Defining Impression 30
  • The Harbinger of What? 32
  • The Beginning and the End 33
  • A Family Gone, One by One 34
  • The Abandonment of Mielec 36
  • A Shtetl's Life is Ended 37
  • What Ever Happened to the Jews of Skudvil? 40
  • III - Ruthlessness as a System 43
  • In the Dark 45
  • Theresienstadt 47
  • Dachau 50
  • Auschwitz, 1944 55
  • The Tenth Woman on Block Ten 56
  • The Means to Survive 58
  • The Gypsies 60
  • Nazi Murderers 61
  • How Many Made It? 63
  • The Law in Lithuania 64
  • Horrors of War 70
  • IV - The Lottery of Death and Life 81
  • German Roulette 83
  • My Sister Rieke 84
  • A Definition of Survival 86
  • An Unforgettable Passover Seder 89
  • Trying to Go Home 90
  • Bar Mitzvah Boy 93
  • The Skull with the Golden Braid 95
  • The Concentration Camp Lottery 96
  • The Girl with Wooden Shoes 101
  • The Wagon 102
  • The Child 103
  • V - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 105
  • In Constant Terror 107
  • Posing as a Christian 114
  • I Choose Life 116
  • Lost Families 119
  • Beyond Memory 121
  • A Hidden Child in Greece 123
  • VI - The Sustaining Power of Family Love 143
  • The Promise 144
  • A Mother's Courage 147
  • Miracles 151
  • A Dream of Milk 155
  • In Praise of Manual Labor 156
  • A Son in Deed 158
  • The Psychologist 162
  • VII - The Virtuous and the Vicious 163
  • A Narrow Escaper 165
  • The Kindness of Strangers 168
  • A Saintly Person 170
  • The Convent in Marseilles 173
  • Among the Righteous 176
  • The Killing Hunger 179
  • Captain Zimmer 180
  • The Volunteer Group 181
  • Mazel 182
  • The Farmer Kowarski 185
  • A Surprise Package 187
  • VIII - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 189
  • Lithuanian Friends 191
  • Unsung Heroes 199
  • Friend or Enemy? 202
  • Resist in Everything! 208
  • IX - Emergence into Light 225
  • The Golden Chain of Judaism 227
  • Flight to Freedom 236
  • The Last Hiding Place 243
  • One Day War, the Next Day Not 245
  • The Long Road After Liberation 247
  • On the Way to Health 249
  • An Ending and a Beginning 252
  • The Tiny Flame 254
  • X - The Aftermath: Remembering 257
  • The Aftermath 258
  • The Barber 260
  • Kaleidoscope: Salonika, Greece, 1945 261
  • The Sewing Basket 263
  • Children from the Camps Going to England 265
  • The Chief of the Gestapo 268
  • Herr Schluemper 270
  • The Miracle 272
  • To Bear Witness About the Holocaust 274
  • It Shall Not Be Forgotten nor Forgiven! 276
  • Addendum - Seen with My Own Eyes: Stories by American Liberators 279
  • The Photograph 281
  • Germany, 1945: View from a Tank 283
  • Gusen: A Nurse's Tale 286
  • A Letter from Dachau 288
  • I Saw Buchenwald 291
  • Re-Entry 296
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Photographs of Liberator-Authors 336
  • Author Index 342
  • Story Index 343
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