Walter S.G. Kohn: 50 years after the deportation of the last Lichtenfels Jews. Thoughts on November 9, 1988

Walter S.G. Kohn: 50 years after the deportation of the last Lichtenfels Jews. Thoughts on November 9, 1988

Lichtenfelser Hefte zur Heimatgeschichte No. 2, p. 26f.

[…] But now to November 9, 1938 itself. A gloomy, pre-winter Wednesday evening, if I remember correctly. As usual, I had come home before dinner by train from Coburg, where I had been attending a Jewish school for over two years.

One never knew what the anniversary of the Hitler putsch of 1923 and the collapse of the German army five years earlier would bring. The newspapers were full of outrage over the "cowardly Jewish assassination" in Paris. My mother was planning to go to her tailoring class that evening. An acquaintance came and said that the teacher would not be arriving from Bamberg. "The people's soul is boiling," were her prophetic parting words.

At that time we lived in the Jewish community house (Judengasse 14) next to the synagogue. On the ground floor lived the Jewish teacher Seliger with his wife. On the second floor was our apartment and that of a Christian family.

In the early morning hours of November 10, we were awakened by loud shouting. A couple of drunks? Soon we knew it was something more serious. The fence enclosing the community center and the front yard of the synagogue was quickly torn down. A horde of SA men now entered the synagogue. Since they immediately turned on all the lights, we could observe everything from our dark rooms behind the curtains. The windows of the synagogue were smashed and the curtains torn down. The prayer desks were worked on with axes and prayer books and prayer shawls were thrown down and destroyed. In the center of the synagogue, a large number of Torah scrolls were kept in the Torah shrine. These contain the five books of Moses, are handwritten on parchment, and are held sacred by the Jews as the direct word of God. They were now thrown out and torn to pieces. What could somehow be destroyed was destroyed, amidst the bestial howls and cheers of a crowd that was no longer human. Meanwhile, they set about the community center itself, smashing the shutters of the ground-floor apartment of teacher Seliger. He came up to us in his shirt. His wife stayed downstairs and was present when they destroyed everything that could be hacked and torn to pieces. Books, dishes, bedspreads were in tatters and shards, either in the apartment itself or in the street. Seliger, never very popular among Jews or non-Jews, went out into the street after daybreak and was arrested for a short time. His wife was terribly affected by the loss of her possessions, especially since her husband then did not return either.

From my own recollection I do not know what happened to her. She was sitting among the rubble when we left that evening, then disappeared without a trace for weeks until her body was pulled out of the water near Reundorf. The Nazis said it was suicide; I only know that a few weeks earlier, in a conversation with my mother, she had taken the very strong stand that under no circumstances should one take one's own life, no matter how bleak and hopeless the situation might seem ...