Hug for Carolyn a. k. a. “Bink”
KRISTALLNACHT 75TH ANNIVERSARY
SETON HILL UNIVERSITY
November 12, 2013
When Fritz Ottenheimer was asked what the most terrifying experience in his life was he didn’t have to think long.
- 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, throughout Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by German troops.
- Instigated primarily by Nazi Party officials and members of the SA (Sturmabteilungen: literally Assault Detachments, but commonly known as Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth, 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.
Ottenheimer and three other Holocaust survivors, Yolanda Willis, Shulamit Bastacky, and Solange Lebovitz, were acknowledged during the interfaith Kristallnacht memorial service at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Ottenheimer was 13 on November 9-10, 1938, when, across the Third Reich, 267 synagogues were burned, 700 Jewish businesses were looted, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps, and 91 Jews met death.
Early in the morning of November 10 a synagogue was blown up near his home. A few hours later there was a knock on the door. Two Gestapo were there to arrest his father.
“How could that happen?” he wondered. His father had committed no crime. “We did not know what was happening to us. I felt hurt, helpless, hopeless. I wondered: Would they come for us?”
Later he learned it was not just a local activity, but a well-run national pogrom.
“Being Jewish was the crime in Germany on Kristallnacht,” Ottenheimer said.
Ottenheimer considers his family to be lucky.
“My father was taken to Dachau Concentration Camp …but was released in a month. He was very sick. His recovery took a month.”
“Six months later we got permission to come th the United States. Three and a half months later World War II broke out, bringing the Holocaust.”
Six years later Ottenheimer graduated from high school. Enlisted in the military, and was sent to Europe for the final thrust against Germany.
In the 75 years that have passed since Kristallnacht Ottenheim has often wondered how the world and Germany would react to Kristalnacht and later events.
“I’m reminded of what Martin Luther King said: ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemy but the silence of our friends.’ When people are being harmed we must become involved. To be a bystander is to be an accomplice.”
During the service University professor James Paharik said “We at Seton Hill are convinced we should never forget.”
As my husband, our friend Claudette, and I were leaving the University we provided a woman a ride down the hill to the parking lot.
Carolyn (a. k. a. “Bink”) told us that towards the end of the service she walked to the front of St. Joseph’s Chapel and presented a white flower to the four Holocaust survivors (we were not seated in a spot where we observed this).
“I was told this had never been done before,” she said.
The first Seton Hill University service commemorating Kristallnacht occurred in November 1987. The University has marked the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass annually since then.
The first service marked the establishment of the University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education.
(A NaBloPoMo post)
The HOLOCAUST category on CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS includes the story of Robert (Bob) Mendler, a Nowy Tag survivor who lived in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and was very involved in the Seton Hill University Holocaust program. He died Dec. 10, 2010.
(A NaBloPoMo post)