It happens every time without fail.
My spirit breaks a little more every time I see a memorial, another example of the depths to which our species have plumbed.
Does feeling this way make me weak? Or am I resembling a human being after all?
On 9-10 November 1938, Kristallnacht (“the night of broken glass”) was a well-organized “pogrom”, a series of violent attacks by Nazis against Jews and their property in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslavakia’s Sudetenland. The word “Kristallnacht” is literally “the night of crystal”, referring to broken glass as windows to synagogues, homes, and stores owned by Jews were shattered.
The numbers were appalling: at least 90 dead, 30000 arrested and detained in camps, over 200 synagogues burned, and over 7000 Jewish businesses damaged or destroyed. The outbreak of coordinated actions against Jews marked the beginning of state-sanctioned violence. With Kristallnacht, the state opened the door to undisguised escalation of savagery: a turning point leading to the Holocaust.
Heidelberg’s Old Synagogue
In the university town of Heidelberg, the earliest recorded presence of Jews dates back to the 13th-century. Jews gathered in what is now the Old Town and converted the building they were using into a synagogue in the early 18th-century; the community built a new synagogue at the same site in the late 19th-century.
The synagogue did not escape violence on Kristallnacht and was burned to the ground. Alter Synagogenplatz (Old Synagogue Square) is all that remains today with memorial plaques; the names of people arrested, deported, and killed; the outline of the synagogue’s walls in white marble; the entrance and windows marked in grey granite; and twelve sandstone cubes representing pews and the twelve tribes of Israel.
A memorial at the square is dedicated to the Jewish community who once thrived in Heidelberg’s Old Town. Information at the “Site of the Heidelberg synagogue, 1714-1938″ provided by the City of Heidelberg reads:
Jews have lived in Heidelberg since the 13th century, in spite of having been subject to oppression and persecution time and again. In 1714, the “Blue Lily” house situated on this site was converted to a synagogue. In 1878, the community built a new synagogue in contemporary style.
On the night of 9-10 November 1938, Nazi storm troopers set fire to the synagogue. In 1939, the Jewish community was ordered to pay for the demolition of its ruined synagogue.
On 22 October 1940, the Jews of Baden and the Palatinate were deported to Gurs camp in Southern France. Only few of them survived the Shoah. Between 1941 and 1945, more Jews from the area were deported straight to the death camps.
After the end of the war in April 1945, a Jewish community was re-established in Heidelberg. The present-day synagogue is situated in the Weststadt city district, at 10-12 Häusserstrasse. It was inaugruated in 1994.
During the renovation of this square in 2001, white marble cobbles were used to mark the outline of the synagogue. The memorial stone marks the location of the Ark.
A new Jewish community centre and synagogue were inaugurated in Heidelberg’s Weststadt in 1994. There are now brass “Stolpersteine” or “stumbling stones” with names acknowledging Jews who once lived in Heidelberg.
I made the photos above on 26 November 2006 with a Canon Powershot A510. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
* A number of German historians set up the website, 9nov38.de, to highlight events before, during, and after the pogroms of 9-10 November 1938; the website is in German.
* Thanks to Enchanted Seashells for their post.
* 2013 marked the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, and BBC News posed the question of whether anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe. Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander recently returned to her hometown of Berlin, where she has her own “Stolperstein”; she spoke to NPR about remembering Kristallnacht.