Kristallnacht 2018

A German synagogue burns on Nov. 9, 1938



80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht:

Kristallnacht, literally, "Night of Crystal," is often referred to as the "Night of Broken Glass." The name refers to the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938. This wave of violence took place throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by German troops.

Kristallnacht owes its name to the shards of shattered glass that lined German streets in the wake of the pogrom—broken glass from the windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence.

The rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. Many synagogues burned throughout the night in full view of the public and of local firefighters, who had received orders to intervene only to prevent flames from spreading to nearby buildings. SA and Hitler Youth members across the country shattered the shop windows of an estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned commercial establishments and looted their wares. Jewish cemeteries became a particular object of desecration in many regions. 

As the pogrom spread, units of the SS and Gestapo (Secret State Police), following Heydrich's instructions, arrested up to 30,000 Jewish males, and transferred most of them from local prisons to Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and other concentration camps.

The events of Kristallnacht represented one of the most important turning points in National Socialist antisemitic policy. Historians have noted that after the pogrom, anti-Jewish policy was concentrated more and more concretely into the hands of the SS. Moreover, the passivity with which most German civilians responded to the violence signaled to the Nazi regime that the German public was prepared for more radical measures.

Source: Holocaust Encyclopedia, 
US Holocaust Memorial Museum 


The MOT will be showing a multimedia presentation on Kristallnacht all week in the Museum Lobby. 



Below are the stories of Jewish children whose lives were inextricably altered by Kristallnacht. Each of these stories are taken from the Museum of Tolerance's photo passport cards.

All of the stories from the passport cards can be accessed online here.


Ulrich Arnheim (Born 1927 - Berlin, Germany)


Ulrich was the only child of Dr. Fritz A. and Milli (Rosenthal) Arnheim. Dr. Arnheim was a successful lawyer. The family lived in Berlin, a large, cosmopolitan, highly sophisticated city. Many of the Jews of Berlin were assimilated and were well integrated into the social and cultural fabric of the city.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, Ulrich was a six year-old schoolboy. They slowly introduced harsh economic and social restrictions against the Jews. Jews were barred from most professions, and lost their citizenship. Ulrich's father lost his job, leaving the family with no regular income. The Germans began expelling Jews who had not been born in Germany. In November 1938, a country-wide night of massive riots and plundering was directed towards Germany's Jews. This was later known as Kristallnacht, because of all the glass windows that had been broken. Ulrich's parents decided to find a way to leave the country. They attempted to place Ulrich in a boarding school in England. Because his father had lost his job and could not guarantee his monthly maintenance, Ulrich was turned down. A Jewish woman living in England expressed interest in taking him in, but Ulrich's parents were unable to part from him. They tried to obtain visas so that the family could go to the United States.

Ulrich was a good-natured, sensitive, clever child. He studied English at school, and was well liked by his classmates.

The Arnheim family was hopelessly trapped in Germany after October 1941. Emigration from Germany was now forbidden by the Nazis, and harsher restrictions were being passed against the Jews. They were forbidden to use public transportation, and they could be evicted from their homes at any moment. Jews were forced to wear the yellow star. The Germans began deporting Jews to sealed, hunger- and disease-ridden ghettos in eastern Europe. After September 1942, they began deporting German Jews directly to death camps.

Ulrich and his parents were murdered in the Auschwitz death camp.

Peter Berlowitz (Born July 8, 1936 - Berlin, Germany)


Peter was born in Berlin, Germany in July 1936, after the Nuremberg Laws had been passed, taking away all civil rights of German Jews. Peter was not allowed to attend public school, play in parks or playgrounds, visit any movies or other forms of entertainment, ride any buses or trains, own any pets, and he had to wear a yellow star on his clothing whenever he went outside.

Peter's father had disappeared, so Peter lived alone with his mother.  From the time Peter was about four years old, his mother had to leave him by himself all day during the week while she went to work in a German uniform factory.  On his own, he followed his mother's instructions about what to study, when to play, and when to nap.

In June 1943, the Nazi Gestapo arrested Peter and his mother and deported them, together with about 150 other Berlin Jews, to the Terezin concentration camp (Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia. After 2 days and nights without food or water in a cattle car, Peter along with his mother and others, arrived at Terezin. Peter was placed in the children's section where he remained for two years. His mother was sent to the adult section of the camp where she was put to work at various jobs. Peter and his mother were able to visit each other every other month for about an hour. About three weeks after Peter arrived at Terezin, he had his seventh birthday. Peter and other children his age were put to work gathering mica rocks from a section of the camp, loading boxes on trains, and tending to the camp vegetable field which fed only the camp guards and administrators. Peter and the other inmates had a daily ration of a bowl of soup, and occasionally a small potato or piece of bread.

Terezin  was built for about 5,000 people, yet nearly 80,000 Jews were held there at any one time. A total of 140,000 Jews, including 15,000 children, were sent to Terezin between November 1941 and early 1945. Of that total, 87,000 Jews were transported to Auschwitz and more than 33,000 died in Terezin from starvation, disease, or execution.

Terezin was liberated on May 8, 1945 by the Soviet Army. Of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezin, only about 125 survived. Peter was one of the lucky ones who survived. Peter's mother also survived. After two years in a Displaced Person's camp in Germany, Peter and his mother, new father, and baby sister arrived in America to start a new life. At age 11, Peter was able to attend school for the first time.

Peter is now known as Peter Daniels, and he lives in Los Angeles, California. He is a speaker at the Museum of Tolerance.

Lillyan Cohn (Born Jan. 30, 1928 - Halberstadt, Germany)


Lillyan was a five year-old schoolgirl when Hitler came to power in 1933. She lived with her parents, Ernest and Margarete, and her older brother, Werner. Halberstadt was a center of Orthodox Jewry in Germany. After 1933, the Jews of Germany were slowly pauperized and constantly humiliated. In 1935, the Nazis enacted the anti-Jewish "Nuremberg Laws." Jews were stripped of their German citizenship.

Believing that the harsh restrictions and the daily ostracism were only temporary, Lillyan's family did not attempt to leave Germany where their family had lived for generations. Many others, however, did leave.

As conditions worsened, most German Jews became desperate to leave. Their ability to do so was limited, as most were impoverished. Additionally, other countries began restricting the number of Jews they would allow in. German Jews were trapped.

On the night of November 9-10, 1938 a centrally planned, country-wide riot against the Jews occurred. Arson and the destruction of Jewish-owned property took place in every single town where Jews lived. That night was known afterwards as Kristallnacht because of all the broken glass found in the streets.

World opinion was aghast at the horror and violence of that night. Individuals and organizations in various countries attempted to remove as many endangered children as possible from Nazi Germany. On December 2, 1938, a first transport of 320 children was sent to England. By September 1939, 9,354 children were evacuated. The transports were halted at the outbreak of war. Lillyana's parents managed to find a place for their eleven year-old daughter on a transport to England. Her parents and older brother, Werner, saw the train off.

Eva Isaac (Born June 4, 1928 - Berlin, Germany)
Hansgeorg Isaac (Born December 17, 1926 - Berlin, Germany)


Eva and Hansgeorg were the children of Freidrich and Anna Isaac. Thier father, a writer, wrote under the surname Victor, and Eva and her brother, Hansgeorg, were known by that last name. They lived in Berlin, a large, very sophisticated city. The Jews of Berlin were highly assimilated and well-integrated into the social and cultural fabric of the city. Eva was five years old and Hansgeorg was seven years old when the Nazis came to power. They immediately began passing antisemitic measures. Many Jewish-owned businesses were barred from most professions and normal civic life. Jews were not allowed to attend public schools and were later forced to wear the yellow star. Their German citizenship was revoked, and they were forbidden to associate with non-Jews. Segregation laws were strictly enforced, and Jews were subjected to constant harassment and abuse.

After their parents divorced, they placed their children in a Jewish boarding school. They were sent there in March 1938, when Eva was nine and Hansgeorg eleven years old. Eva and her older brother, Hansgeorg, were extremely close.

After the wide-scale destruction and antisemitic acts of violence known as Kristallnacht, that took place on the night of November 9-10, 1938, Their father tried to get his children out of the country.

In January 1939, he wrote to a woman in England who was placing Jewish children in homes and boarding schools throughout England. Because Mr. Isaac was unable to supply monthly maintenance fees, due to his forced unemployment, the children's application was denied. After October 1941, the Jews of Germany were no longer allowed to emigrate. The children were hopelessly trapped.

Sometime between December 1941 and the spring of 1942, the Germans deported 16,000 Jews to a sealed-off ghetto in Riga, the capital of Latvia. The previous inhabitants, 30,000 local Jews, had been murdered by the Nazis to make room for the German Jews.

After September 1942, the Germans began deporting German Jews directly to death camps. Fourteen year-old Ava was sent to Auschwitz. Children under the age of fifteen were usually murdered upon their arrival. Eva was never heard from again. Nothing is known about Hansgeorg after he was deported to Riga. He was never heard from again.

Hanna Frank (Born April 8, 1928 - Weseke, Germany)
Marga Frank (Born August 1935 - Weseke, Germany)
Manfred Frank
(Born November 1936 - Weseke, Germany)


Hanna grew up in a small German town close to the Dutch border. Her father, Carl Frank, bought and sold cattle. Her mother Olga died when Hanna was five. She grew up surrounded by a large, extended family, including four unmarried aunts. The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, but at first, the Frank family did not take them seriously. Hanna's father remarried when Hanna was seven years old, and she became very close to her stepmother, Irma. Hanna's little sister, Marga, and her brother, Manfred, were born a few years later. During the early years of the Nazi regime, many Jewish-owned businesses were confiscated and Jews were barred from most professions. Jews were later required to wear the yellow star. Their father began smuggling Jewish refugees across the border into Holland. In September 1938, ten year-old Hanna began attending a school run by nuns. She was the only Jewish child in the school. In November 1938, after country-wide acts of terror and destruction were directed against Germany's Jews, Their father was arrested and sent to prison. Hanna was expelled from school because she was Jewish. The family was impoverished and trapped.

Early in 1941, their father was released from prison. In December 1941, the family was notified that they were to be deported to the "East." The Frank family, along with 16,000 other German Jews, were sent to Riga, the capital city of Latvia. They were forced to live in a sealed-off ghetto, whose previous residents, over 30,000 local Jews, had been murdered.

Conditions in the ghetto were horrendous. There was little food and water, and most sanitary facilities had been shut down. Thousands died from starvation, disease, and exposure. Fourteen year-old Hanna, seven year-old Marga  and six year-old Manfred lived in one room with their father, mother, and four aunts. 

Their father was shot while at work for stealing food for his starving family.

On November 2, 1942, while Hanna was at work, the ghetto was emptied. The Nazis seized seven year-old Marga, six year-old Manfred, their mother and aunts, along with most of the other residents of the ghetto, and gassed them in sealed transport vans. Marga's older sister, Hanna, had a glimpse of the little girl, in her red coat, being driven away in a van.

Hanna and other able-bodied workers were sent to a work camp. When the Russian army began advancing on the area, Hanna and other Jewish workers were shipped to labor camps in Germany. Forced to work at hard labor, Hanna was constantly cold, hungry and afraid. Realizing that Germany was losing the war, the camp commander arranged for his prisoners to be exchanged through the Red Cross. On May 3, 1945, seventeen year-old Hanna was sent to Sweden, and freedom.