Kristallnacht 80: 'How villager was beaten to death as all the other men were arrested'


A MEMBER of the Glasgow community has recalled witnessing the horror of Kristallnacht.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, the Association of Jewish Refugees held a special event on Sunday at Glasgow’s Giffnock Synagogue.

After the screening of a documentary on Kristallnacht, AJR member Sidney Mayer, who was 13 in Germany at the time, told his story.

“I was born in a little village, with 700 inhabitants, near the town of Landau,” he said.

“Kristallnacht took place three weeks after my birthday. My father was arrested with all the other Jewish men in the village and they were taken to Landau to the annexe of the synagogue there.

“They were each interrogated. I remember that one prominent member of the community lost his temper when he was questioned.

“He told the SA (Nazi paramilitary) what he thought of them and they beat him to death. After that they were taken to Dachau, where a lot of them died or committed suicide.”

Mr Mayer continued: “We had to leave our village and go to Mannheim. What I saw there was unbelievable. They had smashed and destroyed everything — even all the crockery and no one had anything left. It was just horrible.

“After about a week and a half, we went back to our village. Fortunately, the police had kept an eye on the Jewish homes and everything was intact.

“When my father came out of Dachau, he looked terrible — he must have lost about two stone. My parents put me on the Kindertransport.

“They moved to Toulouse and I was in touch with them until 1942, when they were deported to Auschwitz and that was the last I ever heard of them.”

Scottish Jewish Archives Centre director Harvey Kaplan spoke about the new Holocaust-era Study Centre that is going to be developed in Garnethill Synagogue.

He gave a presentation on some of the major refugees collections already catalogued by SJAC, including 40 boxes of archival material donated by the family of the late Dorrith Sim, who escaped to Scotland on the Kindertransport.

They included documents on her family dating back to the 18th century.

Mr Kaplan said: “We’ve been working on the project to create the centre for the past few years.

“We reckon that around 2,500 Jewish people fled to Scotland in the 1930s and 1940s. We have a fast growing collection of documents and have been working hard to collect interviews, photos, documents and other artefacts from refugees.”

JewishGen vice-president Michael Tobias gave a presentation on researching families torn apart by the Holocaust.

One of the main reasons it was extremely difficult to track down families after the war was because many survivors changed their names.

Mr Mayer lit one of the candles for the six million Jewish Holocaust victims.

Other candles were lit by AJR first generation survivors Alice Malcolm, Lore Lucas, Eva Szirmai, Dr Werner Susskind and Renate Mackay.

A seventh candle, in memory of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, was lit by Robert Mackenzie.

The Glasgow Jewish Singers performed Hashem Ma Adam and its conductor, Eddie Binnie, recited the Memorial Prayer and Kaddish.

The event was organised by AJR outreach co-ordinator Agnes Isaacs, who stressed the importance of every story being told and the memories of families kept alive.

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