Kristallnacht. November 9th – 10th 1938

The November Pogrom in Baden-Baden.’

 The events of 10.11.1938 in Baden-Baden were described by Arthur Flehinger, a teacher at the Hohenbaden Gymnasium, who subsequently came to Bradford, Yorkshire,  in a report he wrote in 1955: (In Stadtarchiv Baden-Baden 05-02/015). Translated by Rabbi Walter Rothschild.Image

“Until the infamous 10th November 1938 Baden-Baden remained largely sheltered from the worst excesses of the Nazis. This was not because anyone wanted to grant the Jews of the Spa town any especial privileges, but from purely egoistic reasons, because the Spa had strong international connections which had to be maintained; It was, as one said, Germany’s Visiting Card. Any major disruption of the inner peace would have had as an effect a reduction in the number of visitors from abroad and therefore a reduction in foreign currency takings, and the Nazis needed money and more money. Of course all the Nazi Orders (fingerprinting, Jewish forenames etc.) were imposed just as strongly as elsewhere. However, the foreign tourists would not notice any of this. But whereas foreign newspapers were as good as invisible in other cities, in Baden-Baden one could read ‘The Times’ almost until the end, and it was a particular irony of fate that only one day after the Order regarding Jewish forenames was promulgated that the ‘Times’ published an article stating that ‘Sara’ meant something like ‘Duchess’ and that ‘Israel’ meant ‘one who argues with God.’

From Summer 1937 onwards it was noticeable that a different wind was blowing also in Baden-Baden, and that the Nazi poison was eating its way also into the otherwise relatively calm town. The lawn behind the Kurhaus offices was prohibited to Jews. The owner of the formerly famous hotel Holländischer Hof decorated the entrance to his restaurant with the conspicuous lettering “Dogs and Jews Forbidden.’ In the Jewish shops, insofar as these still existed, the Party Members were ever-more ruder and saw it as their responsibility to report to the Party anyone who still had the courage to enter a Jewish business…..

The 10th. November ended any remaining hesitations and illusions of calm, and Baden-Baden also experienced its Nazi ‘Razzia’.

At 7 in the morning a Policeman appeared at our house in the Prinz-Weimar-Strasse 10 and ordered me to accompany him to the Police Station. Since I had been teaching at the Baden-Baden Gymnasium for many years I was known by both young and old and I observed the policeman‘s own embarrassment. It seemed pointless however to enter into any discussion with him and so I walked along with him… maintaining my calm appearance. In the town at this hour it was of course still quiet. If one saw anyone else in the street, it was another victim under police escort. The number of poor enforced early-risers grew, the closer we were to the Police Station. Although in normal times the Season at Baden-Baden would be over in November, there were still some Jews staying in those hotels which were still avaailable to them. Others had settled here since 1933, since this town seemed like an Eldorado compared to the places they had lived in until then.

In front of the Police Station the infamous Supervisor had posted himself like a sort of Gessler and demanded that everyone who passed him had to take off their hat. It would have been pure madness to refuse. About fifty victims were already gathered at the Police Station and more came continuously to join us. The Police were all in their Gala uniforms. It was a Day of Triumph of the Strong over the Weak, and at the same time a dramatisation of Lafontaine’s fable ‘The Wolf and the Lamb.’ Everything was carefully minuted, with German accuracy and efficiency.

Around 10am we were led into the courtyard and here had to assemble ourselves in rows. The fuss with which the vermin of the Third Reich ran around indicated some special sort of Aktion was under way. Around midday the gate was opened, and the column of defenceless men marched off, heavily guarded right and left, and forced to process through the streets of the town. It seemed they had waited until midday to be sure of a crowd of observers. But to the honour of the Baden-Badeners let it be said that the majority of them refused to let themselves be seen on the street. What those who were observing could see, was mere humiliation. There were three teachers who were not ashamed to be seen on the street. One of them, Herr Dr. Mampell, merely let the column pass by him; Whereas another, the Director of the Volkschule, Herr Hugo Müller and his friend Herr Schmidt had gathered a number of young pupils, so that they could call out ‘Juda Verrecke!’ Whether this demonstration really cheered up the spectators is something I strongly doubt. I saw people who were weeping behind their curtains. One of the decent Baden-Badeners is reported to have said: ‘What I saw was not a Christ figure, but a whole column of Christ figures; With heads raised, and not bowed down by any sense of guilt did they march….’

The column neared the Synagogue, where the upper steps of the staircase outside were already filled with a mixed crowd with and without uniform. That was a real running the gauntlet; One had to pass by the mob, and they made sure to howl insults as the sorry procession passed. I myself looked people directly in the eye all the way along the procession and as we reached the top steps someone called down, “Don’t look so cheeky, Professor.’ That was actually less an insult as more a confession of their own weakness and fear.

In Dachau also later I observed that the officials couldn’t stand being stared right through. The mob was less merciful with my friend Dr. Hauser – he was a busy and much-respected lawyer in Baden-Baden, later on he and his wife were taken to Southern France, then to Celle and from there to the death chambers in Auschwitz. The poor fellow got many punches from those who claimed the right to use their fists, and I saw the pitiful chap later fallen onto a tallit that the Nazis had spread out on the floor, so that we had to walk over it.

In the synagogue everything had been turned upside down. The holy floor of the architecturally-so-beautiful Temple had been defiled by vile hands. The House of God had been turned into a playground for black, uniformed hordes. I saw how people were busy upstairs in the Women’s Gallery running to and fro…. These were not Baden-Badener. For the 10th. November the authorities had brought in SS men from neighbouring towns, that is people who were not restricted by even a faint spark of humanity and were therefore in a position to carry out their vile work without any sense of disturbance…..

Suddenly a rude, fat voice called out ‘You will now sing the Horst Wessel Lied’. It was sung in a way that anyone could have expected, and so we had to ‘sing’ it again a second time. So for a second time we had to struggle through their ‘National Hymn’. Then I was called to go up to the Almemor and I was given a passage from ‘Mein Kampf’ to read. In the circumstances a refusal would have only endangered my life and that of my fellow sufferers. So I said, ‘I have received the order to read the following’, and I read quietly enough. Indeed, so quietly that the SS man standing behind me gave me several blows to my neck. Those who, after me, also had to read samples of this fine literary cookbook of the Nazis suffered similarly. Then there was a pause. We were in no way allowed to use the toilets, but had to do what we had to do in the courtyard, with our faces to the wall of the synagogue, and in the meantime received kicks from behind.

From the synagogue we then had to go to the Hotel Central opposite. The hotel owner, Herr Lieblich, who had of course not been warned in advance of the pleasant programme for the day, had suddenly to conjure up food for about 70 people. He managed to achieve this in a masterful fashion. That we managed to get anything at all to swallow down was really a miracle….

There was then a great mystery concerning our future destiny. No-one seemed to know what they planned to do with us. We were fully cut off from the outside world. Our anything-but-quiet discussions were then broken by the Cantor of the community, Herr Grünfeld, who entered the room as white as a corpse and with a bleeding heart said, ‘Our beautiful House of God is in flames.’ The most brutal of the Hitler band then commented on Herr Grünfeld’s tragic news, by adding in a frivolous manner the sentence ‘’And when I had anything to do with it, you would all be there in the flames too.’

The high point of the tragedy had been reached. The hope of being able to see our families again that evening was now replaced by a strong pessimism. When at last those over 60 years old were sent to their homes, we were as good as certain that a sad fate awaited us. There was then a sort of inspection by a high-ranking SS officer, who attempted to add some sort of motivation to the whole event. Also Herr Medizinalrat Dr. Walter, a well-known and active member of the Party, appeared that evening in order to give at least an appearance of humane treatment to those who were to be excluded on health grounds. In reality the files on the fifty or so remaining had already been closed. The bus waited in front of the door, and with it a whole crowd of ‘angry’ citizens. The deportation to Dachau had been already long-planned, only we poor victims didn’t know it. We had to run out to the bus, and whoever didn’t run enough received a firm reminder…. At the station we waited for a special train from the Freiburg district. It brought the Jews from the Upper Baden region. In each compartment sat a guard. Not a single word came from his mouth. As the train turned after Karlsruhe in the direction of Stuttgart, one heard only the horrible word ‘Dachau’.

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