Nazis burn synagogues, smash stores as German police watch

By EDWARD W. BEATTIE Jr., United Press Staff Correspondent
Synagoge of Siegen, Germany, burning during Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938 in Nazi-Germany. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Synagoge of Siegen, Germany, burning during Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938 in Nazi-Germany. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

BERLIN, Nov. 10, 1938 (UP) - The government called a halt to a Nazi campaign of violence against Jews throughout Germany today after synagogues everywhere had been burned, shops and their contents wrecked and thousands of Jews arrested.

Fourteen hours after the violence began, at an hour apparently set by Nazi officialdom, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, ordered the destruction stopped. He indicated new official measures were planned against Jews in retaliation for the assassination of a German Embassy attaché in Paris by a young Polish-German Jew.


Germany's "further answer to Jewry" would be given through laws and decrees, Dr. Goebbels stated. Nazi mobs surged through the streets of cities and towns throughout the Reich and Austria, beginning at mid-night and lasting until mid-afternoon, in a systematic campaign of destruction.

The Nazi mobsters were instructed by party officials not to start until midnight so as not to interfere with the celebration of the anniversary of the 1923 Munich beer cellar putsch.


Police made no effort to interfere as the crowds set fire to synagogues, smashed shop windows, demolished furniture and stocks of goods and manhandled Jews. Persons who expressed sympathy for the Jews were maltreated, and some were arrested.

Many Jewish residents of Munich were ordered tonight to leave the city within forty-eight hours and in some cases to quit the Reich, although it was not disclosed whether German Jews as well as foreign were affected. Previously it was said on reliable authority that all foreign Jews had been ordered to leave the country within forty-eight hours, but this was denied in Berlin.

Despite official disclaimers of knowledge of a general expulsion order against foreign Jews, it was generally expected such an order would be issued.

It was reported without confirmation that another order was being prepared expropriating all Jewish property in Germany. Such a law has been long rumored, the most popular speculation being that all Jewish property would be pooled under a state trusteeship which would yield Jews a certain income in accordance with the value of their holdings.

In his order calling off the mobs, Dr. Goebbels said:

"The justified and comprehensible indignation of the German nation at the cowardly Jew murder of a German diplomat in Paris extensively manifested itself last night. Reprisals have been taken in numerous towns and cities of the Reich against Jewish buildings and shops.


"At present, however, the entire population is earnestly warned immediately to abstain from any further demonstrations against Jewry, no matter what kind.

"The final and correct answer to the Jewish outrage in Paris will be given Jewry through laws and decrees."

Many lawyers expressed the opinion that insurance companies need not pay claims for damages to Jewish property, on the ground that it was caused by "force majeure" and was unavoidable.

The campaign of violence apparently was carefully organized in advance. It was carried out in great detail in many places. Groups of SA and SS men (the Elite Guards and Storm Troops), wearing civilian clothes, went by motorcycle, with sidecars filled with stones, to designated places.

In addition to burnings in provincial towns, there were cases in Berlin where the contents of shops were burned in the streets. There were scattered cases of looting.

Word of Dr. Goebbels' order against the attacks apparently had not reached at least some sections of Berlin in late afternoon because the destruction continued.

The Friedrichstrasse, where there are many Jewish shops, was in turmoil at 4 p.m. A United Press correspondent had to fight his way through crowds outside the shops where rowdies were pounding furniture and merchandise to splinters.


Debris covered three blocks of the Friedrichstrasse between Unter den Linden and the Friedrichstrasse station - glass, clothing, cans of food and chips of once valuable porcelain.

In a Jewish clothing store six youngsters, all evidently still in their teens, were knocking boxes off shelves. Half a dozen shirts were scattered in the display window hanging partly out in the street. One bare-headed boy in knickers climbed on a chair outside the shop and began battering the neon sign with a table leg.

Another group beat down the door of a leather shop already partly wrecked on a previous visit. They trampled suit cases and beat the wood panels with lighting fixtures. A policeman outside merely watched.

Other crowds gathered outside half a dozen other shops within three short blocks, watching rowdies methodically pound the places to pieces. Passengers on a double deck bus stalled in the crowded street, watch in amused silence.

A shop in a leading hotel on Unter den Linden, which has been in the process of "Aryanization" for several weeks, was smashed by a crowd. One of the wreckers stood outside boasting to the crowd:

"That Jew wants 30,000 marks for the contents of his shop. They got him down to 10,000, but I guess he won't get that now."


At a nearby jewelry shop one of the wreckers stood in the shattered window exhibiting small objects to the crowd asking, "Is this silver?"

If the crowd said yes he broke or bent the object. Otherwise he cast it contemptuously aside.

Inside the shop two youths had a tug-of-war over a woman's handbag studded with semi-precious stones. Finally it tore apart.

Afternoon papers, briefly reporting the outbreak, said:

"The contents of shop windows have not been touched."

Crowds in Friedrichstrasse, off Unter den Linden, got so dense soon after 2 p.m. watching the work of destruction that traffic was blocked.

One Jew measuring his show window for a new glass was curtly told by plain clothes men to stop. "There is no time for that now," they said.

A gruesome note was added to the physical violence when an ambulance clanged up to a building in the fashionable West End shopping district and the body of a Jewish suicide or attempted suicide was borne out on a stretcher.

The British-owned Israel store next to the City Hall had every window smashed and the contents strewn in the streets. As far as could be ascertained from outside the entire ground floor had been demolished. The sidewalks were covered with thick glass.


A policeman, after arresting a woman and a youth for looting, shouted:

"Don't touch the property of others. Don't touch anything."

The warning was received with raucous laughter, ironic hand-clapping and shouts of "Bravo."

Some ringleaders in the destruction wore gloves and spectacles with blinders for protection against flying glass.

The property of three naturalized Americans in Berlin was entered and damaged during the day, according to complaints to the Consulate. In two of the three cases robbery was reported. The Consulate demanded protection of the properties and the police promised it.

An American, Anton Celler, of Hampden, Conn., was arrested in Unter den Linden while taking photographs. At the police station he resisted attempts to confiscate his camera and got a message to the Consulate, which obtained his immediate release with the camera.

No case was reported where German Jews already having passport visas for the United States were arrested, but about 100 with applications pending were arrested.

The first American property entered was a jewelry store owned by a man named Loewenstein. His wife, who runs the store, complained that the crowd broke windows, entered and scattered jewelry and silverware around the floor.

Both Loewenstein and S.G. Schultz, owner of the second American store, are in the United States re-establishing their residence to obtain permanent passports, having overstayed their statutory limit abroad for naturalized citizens.


The Schultz shop known as the Leipzig Fur Store, was entered, the windows smashed and five furs stolen. Mrs. Schultz said that the American flag was displayed prominently in the window.

The third shop was a carpet store owned by Rose Bach, who also is in the United States. Her mother said two show windows were broken and rugs and tablecloths stolen.

Berlin state police ordered the offices of all Jewish organizations closed this afternoon.

All Jews in Wittau and Erfurt were arrested and many were arrested in Brealau and Stuttgart. Mostly younger Jews of both sexes were arrested in Augsburg.

The number of Jews arrested and examined through the Reich and Austria during the day could not be estimated. In Vienna alone the figure was placed at 10,000, of whom 6,000 were released.

The arrests apparently were not yet general nor was there activity against Jewish private apartments.

Occasional destruction of shops owned by foreign Jews, including Americans, was not countenanced, but occurred nevertheless.

The Berlin police forces had been reduced rather than strengthened in districts where destruction was to be carried out and patrolmen were specifically ordered not to interfere.

A canvass by the United Press in mid-afternoon of various provincial cities throughout the Reich, such as Hamburg, Frankfort, Cologne, Munich and Breslau brought a uniform story.


It was one of the burning of synagogues, complete destruction of shop windows, store equipment and goods, of violent outbursts against anyone in the crowds who sympathized with the Jews, and of police apathy. The crowds were allowed to wreak their vengeance unchecked.

The Boerse was weak today, with prices losing a point in the average. Observers attributed the decline to selling on renewed pressure against the Jews.

An official news agency dispatch explained that owners of Jewish shops in many towns were taken into custody "for their own protection."

An American physician, Dr. Laurence K. Etter of Los Angeles, was arrested and held for two hours at a precinct police station because he tried to take motion pictures of smashed shops.

Many others, including several Norwegians, Swedes and Danes and numerous Germans, were arrested merely for possessing cameras.

Neutral witnesses estimated that about half the demonstrators were under the influence of liquor. One neutral witness commented that the sober ones seemed well informed where to go.

The gangs paraded the Kurfurstendam and nearby streets, armed with iron rods or display boards from show windows. They smashed windows, dragged out dresses, hats and other goods, and smashed electric signs. Even second-story windows were broken by stones.


Early in the afternoon it was estimated more than 10,000 Jewish shops had been damaged in all parts of the Reich. Property worth millions of marks, including synagogues, was involved.

Netherlands Jews in Cologne took refuge in the Dutch Consulate.

As late as 2 p.m. the destruction of Jewish shops in Berlin continued, crowds of rowdies revisiting shops where show windows were smashed last night to complete the work of demolition. Dr. Goebbels' order came at 4 p.m.

A correspondent saw a uniformed policeman in the Friedrichstrasse standing in front of a shop where five or six men kept chopping away at merchandise and fixtures. The policeman merely kept the crowd back.

One person was badly beaten by the crowd when he remarked: "Let us leave the poor people alone, we have done enough now."

One well-dressed woman in Unter der Linden was just able to rescue herself in a subway entrance from a crowd that pummeled her and spat upon her because she had remarked that the events were "a shame."

A United Press staff correspondent who watched one crowd for more than half an hour saw the demonstrators break into the west end branch of one of the city's biggest jewelry companies.


Men first broke the windows. Then six men with iron bars entered the store, smashed every showcase and every light fixture, battered heavy pieces of silver and cut glass to pieces. One man specialized in throwing a silver loving cup through light fixtures and mirrors.

At a haberdashery the crowd tore down a heavy electric sign and used it as a battering ram against the show window and doors, then flung it through a showcase.

A few voices on the fringes of the crowd protested. One man of German blood, possibly an insurance man, protested: "We lose by this, not you!"

The crowd manhandled him for "doing filthy business for Jews." Police rescued him.

Policemen here, as did others along the route, refrained from making arrests. A duty officer at police headquarters, asked to comment on reports of police inactivity, said: "I am sorry. I can not say anything."

During a half hour's walk a United Press Correspondent saw at least 200 shattered show windows and several stores were ruined. In two or three cases the correspondent saw petty rifling; the contents of one delicatessen store window were scattered for yards in every direction. The crowd shouted: "Down with the dirty Jews! Make the murderers pay!"


The first wave of depredations began at 2 a.m. Three hours later the first rioters went home, but at 6:30 there was a new outburst at many places. French gangs entered stores and smashed goods. Members of one gang came out of a store and told bystanders facetiously: "We only want to put things inside in the right order."

Police patrols and fire engines clanged through the streets.

A crowd of several hundred stood in mid-morning watching a synagogue in the Kurfurstendam burning. The building was afire in several places and the roof had collapsed.

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