On the night of November 9-10, 1938, synagogues were burned in Germany and people of the Jewish faith were abused and humiliated. As a young boy, Kurt Rippich observed the violence scenes in Berlin.
He looks pale, smaller than usual, his voice is muffled, he pauses for a moment. He has to think about it: 80 years have passed since he first walked Linienstraße and then Kleine Rosenthaler Straße in Berlin on November 10, 1938, on his way to school on Gipsstraße. When he was only six years old, he tells us today – a whole life later – that he did not yet know the meaning of what he saw there.
The man is my grandfather. Raised in the Scheunenviertel, which has been the center of Jewish life in Berlin since the 18th century. In the 1930s he lived with his parents and three younger siblings in Linienstraße. Most neighbors: poor Eastern Jews. On 9 and 10 November, during the so-called Reichspogromnacht, Jews were systematically attacked.
My grandfather says:
“I remember the names of the Abraham, Landau and Löw families. My parents often spoke to them. The mother went shopping as much as possible in the immediate vicinity of her home. Soup bones, but also meat for Sundays and holidays, for example at butcher W.F. Fischer, a Jewish shop. We were able to have a letter written there for the family of six, the shopkeeper was also a property manager. The relationship with the Jewish neighbors was always very good “my grandfather says. “We first lived at number 19, the caretaker was Jewish and very nice. But the Wilhelmine building, like other houses in the area, should make way for contemporary buildings in the National Socialist style. We then moved to number 67. That wasn’t my parents’ only reason it was absolutely clear that the life of the Jews in the Scheunenviertel would become increasingly unbearable. “
The wall at the old garrison cemetery in Berlin’s Scheunenviertel: where today is a popular scenic area, Jewish children and adults suffered 80 years ago. (Montage) (Source: Chillreport)
My grandfather rarely talked about National Socialism. Whenever I considered this period as part of my political study, he shook his head — otherwise eloquent and in a strong voice — resignedly. Now he is sitting in front of me, it is cloudy outside. ‘Like then’, says grandpa. He decided to comply with my request and tell me what he remembers about the night of the Reichspogrom. That event once again radicalized extreme discrimination against German Jews. The Nazis’ racial madness ended in the Holocaust, called the Shoah by the Jews. A genocide that killed more than six million Jewish people.
The mood was threatening
“I knew the Jews were not in a good position. But I didn’t understand that at the time. There were several Jewish schools in our area, a gymnasium, a girls’ school. I still remember. From our apartment we could see the wall of the old garrison cemetery. There the children always ran close to the wall “continues grandpa. “Very insecure and scared, as if they were seeking protection. It was only about a hundred meters along the wall, but you could see from the faces and attitudes of the Jewish children that the road seemed long forever. Very curved and small, as if they wanted to be invisible. One felt the fear of mob and humiliation. Older boys scoffed at “Jude, Itzig, cod liver oil.” That was a nasty insult. I’ve always felt sorry for that. I also had many Jewish friends. The mood was threatening, I noticed – even when I was little. “
Even before the November pogroms, which raged across Germany, Jews were expropriated and expelled. On November 7, 1938, the Polish Jew Herschel Grynszpan shot an employee of the German embassy in Paris. The NSDAP member died of his injuries on November 9. In Germany, attacks on Jewish shops and cultural institutions followed, as well as on apartments and cemeteries. According to the National Socialists, the people’s anger would have been blown out against the Jews at that time. In fact, it was a systematically controlled act of violence.
Glasses full of candy were smashed in the street
“I had only started school in April. On the morning of November 10, I was on my way to school every day. As usual with a school bag and slate, pen, book, writing and math books on my back. A damp sponge and a cloth Always dangled. The morning was cloudy, I remember that. As I drove into Gipsstrasse, I saw an excited crowd. Then I saw the windows of a Jewish shop smashed and glass jars of colorful candies smashed in the street. Some people stood around and watched. Others joined in. After the glasses, boxes of chocolate and other candy flew into the streets. Some people were angry, others more euphoric. Some were especially affected and scared. The shopkeeper. I couldn’t make out in the crowd. “
Kurt Rippich when he went to school in the spring of 1938 (source: private)
Across Germany, more than 1,400 synagogues were destroyed and burned to the ground, countless Jewish shops and apartments were destroyed, and people of Jewish descent humiliated. Police and fire brigade were not allowed to intervene, only houses inhabited by non-Jews were protected. In a very short time, thousands of Jewish men were transferred to concentration camps, tortured and ill-treated. Hundreds died.
“I was scared”
“I stood there for a while and watched. More and more stuff was being thrown from the store. And then a wooden box without a lid flew over people’s heads and fell right at my feet. I was scared, but then got it. and connected. Then I went to my class. At school we talked to children privately about what we saw on the street. Some were scared, others were excited. I think we really didn’t understand any of us. We were so little. The teachers said nothing about it, the lessons continued as usual. “
Expropriations, the so-called Aryanization, and the near-complete exclusion of Jews from economic life were the result of the November pogroms. Hundreds of thousands were taken from their existence. Above all, it was cynical that the victims of the attacks had been forced by Hermann Goering’s decision to restore order. So you had to pay for the destruction yourself.
The parents were very depressed
“I don’t remember what my parents did that day. But I remember going home after school. Many shop windows were broken and there was everything on the street. I had my wooden box with me. It looked like something had happened. high quality in it. I still remember: tap with pen and pen. Really noble. When I took it home my mother immediately asked me where I got the box from. I bought it for her tells what I saw that morning. Then I remember her saying, “What the hell did the Jews do to the Germans?” My father was also depressed. We lived in a Jewish environment, we all got along well. My father had paid rent to a Jew for a long time, we children played together. Today I am proud of the attitude of my parents. You We told children that the Eastern Jews in particular had to wrestle as hard as we do. And it was mostly those who lived in our neighborhood. My mother was a small, hard-working woman. Her name was Minna, her father was August. He was a disinfector Both had a hard time getting the four kids through. They were sitting at the dinner table and were very concerned and thoughtful. “
The parents of the Rippich family with their four children in Humboldthain, Berlin in the spring of 1937 (source: private)
Tens of thousands of Jews were taken to the concentration camps Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen. Mainly – so was the instruction – the rich. Some died on arrival, others died later of forced labor, frostbite and disease. Those allowed to leave had to transfer their property to the state and agree to leave.
The wooden box became a memorial
Later, when Mother peeled the six potatoes for us, the peels ended up in the beautiful box. When it was full and the brass tinkle on the horse-drawn wagons from the surrounding stables could be heard from the street, I was usually with the “Potato Peel Firewood” then called. And I went back into the kitchen with a bundle of wood. And with this crate. Sometimes there was also milk for the potato skins. Many Jewish neighbors were gone. I remember my Jewish friend Werner, who at one point left with his family. Those who stayed were always depressed and worried. The children too. ‘
After the pogroms in November, many Jews decided to leave Germany. Many Jewish families had already decided to leave the country, but the numbers skyrocketed after the attacks of 9 and 10 November. Many have finally realized that the situation was hopeless and that their lives were in acute danger.
The box survived the war, most of the neighbors did not
‘My family also left for the bombing of Berlin – to Silesia. We returned to Berlin sometime in December 1945 or January 1946 via the Czech Republic and Dresden. Our house was still there, we returned to our apartment. But otherwise almost everything was broken. There were hardly any real paths left, only paths between the piled stones. My mother, the brothers and sisters and I were there. Father was in Russian captivity until 1948. Nothing was like it used to be. Everything was broken. The box was still there, it survived the war. Not the candy store she was thrown out of hate and anger. Probably not the owner either. I didn’t even know many of my friends and many children, either. I was already taller then and saw that everything was rubble and ashes. And this box was always like a memorial. It still haunts me today. The fear these Jewish children had then. How they made themselves very small, were very insecure and feared everything and everyone. It’s hard to imagine what these people went through. That’s what affects me the most. Now, at the age of 86, I see that 1933 and 1938 are the most important dates in history. More important than ’61 or ’89. “
This text first appeared on November 9, 2018 on Chillreport