German Mobs Wreck Shops, Burn Temples

The Pittsburgh Press/November 10, 1938

Anti-Jewish Riots Break Out All Over Reich; Finally Halted by Goebbels

The government called a halt to a Nazi campaign of violence against the Jews throughout Germany today after synagogues had been burned, shops and their contents wrecked and thousands of Jews arrested.

Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, ordered the destruction stopped, but indicated new, official measures will be taken in retaliation for the assassination of a German embassy attaché in Paris by a young Polish-German Jew.

Dr. Goebbels said Germany’s “further answer to Jewry” would be given through laws and decrees.

Ouster Order Reported

At Munich it was reported all foreign Jews have been ordered to leave the country within 24 hours, it was said on reliable authority today. Officials refused to confirm the report.

Nazi mobs surged through the streets of cities and towns throughout the Reich and Austria, beginning at midnight and lasting until mid-afternoon, in a systematic campaign of destruction.

They 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 mobs 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.

Justified Indignation’

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 Jews Arrested

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 6000 were released.

Jewish homes were searched and shops ordered closed.

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.

Shop Contents Burned

There were cases in Berlin where the contents of shops were burned in the streets. There were scattered cases of looting.

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.

Jewelry Tug-of-War

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.”

An official news agency dispatch announced that anti-Jewish outbreaks occurred in countless towns and that synagogues were fired in most towns.

As regards the arrests, the official news agency 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 police station here because he tried to take miniature motion pictures of smashed shops.

Cameras Bring Arrests.

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

One German was arrested because, it was charged, he remarked that the anti-Jewish riots were shameful.

The official news agency, after carrying only fragmentary comments on the outbreaks, issued the following communiqué at noon:

“The death of a young German diplomat at Paris caused extraordinary indignation throughout Germany in view of the criminal provocation by international Jewry.

“Spontaneous anti-Jewish demonstrations occurred in countless towns. The populations set fire to Jewish synagogues in most towns. The fire brigade in many cases was only able to protect neighboring buildings. In many cities in the Reich, windows of Jewish shops were smashed and Jewish shops were occasionally set afire.

“Owing to the extraordinary excitement among the population, merchandise contained in shops was partly destroyed.

“In Berlin, Jewish shops in the Kurfurstendam and other districts were destroyed.

“Owners of Jewish shops in many towns were taken into custody for their own protection.”

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.

Crowds stood in front of wrecked shops. Apparently watchers were scattered among them. A United Press correspondent saw one woman taking down names of destroyed shops. A non-uniformed man approached her and warned her to stop taking notes or she would be arrested.

A United Press dispatch from Frankfort said that Jewish shops were smashed there and synagogues were fired.

A dispatch to the United Press from Hamburg said that shop windows were smashed there and that three synagogues were invaded and damaged.

Outbreak at Cologne

The United Press correspondent at Cologne said a wave of anti-Jewish outbursts swept over that entire area as far as Aix La Chapelle during the night. Mobs smashed the windows of Jewish shops, scattered the contents, and smashed the windows of Jewish homes—some as high as the third floor. A mob broke into a synagogue, the dispatch said, uprooted seats and flung vestments into the street and then set fire to the building.

The establishment of an American Jewish business man at Cologne, whose name was not disclosed, was smashed, the correspondent said.

In the Berlin West End shopping district at least a dozen crowds of about 50 men each systematically ruined every Jewish store which had not been “Aryanized” since the last anti-Jewish outbreaks in June.

Neutral witnesses estimated about half the demonstrators were under the influence of liquor after the 3 a.m. café closing hour.

The gangs paraded the 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 outside the stores. Even second-story windows were broken by stones.

A United Press staff correspondent saw the demonstrators break into the West End branch of one of the city’s biggest jewelry companies.

The crowd broke the store windows. Then six men, armed with heavy iron bars, entered the store, smashed every show case and every light fixture, battered heavy pieces of silver and cut glass to pieces. One man specialized in throwing a heavy 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 show case inside.

A few voices on the fringes of the crowd were raised in protest.

One man of German blood, possibly an insurance man, protested:

“We lose by this, not you!”

The crowd mishandled him for “doing filthy business for Jews.” Police rescued him.

Policemen refrained from making arrests. Police patrolled the streets later, searching for gangs, but the gangs had mostly vanished before the patrols arrived. A duty officer at police headquarters, asked to comment on reports of police inactivity, said:

“I am sorry, I cannot 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 in the street.

The crowd shouted:

“Down with the dirty Jews! Make the murderers pay!”

10,000 Shops Damaged

Early in the afternoon it was estimated more than 10,000 Jewish shops had been damaged in all parts of the Reich.

At 2 p.m. the destruction of Jewish shops in Berlin continued. Crowds of rowdies revisited shops where show windows were smashed last night to complete the work of demolition.

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 in the Friedrichstrasse 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 den 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 mob threw the furniture of a rabbi’s school in the Grosseschiffgasse into the street and made a bonfire of it.

At 12:04 p.m. a synagogue in the Neudegergasse was fired so quickly flames went through the roof before the fire brigade arrived at 12:20.

Fire gutted a synagogue in the Hubergasse before the fire department could put it out. A mob tore symbolical figures from the roof of a synagogue in the Muttersteg and threw them into the street.

Attacks Continued

Word of Dr. Goebbels’ order against the attacks apparently had not reached at least some sections of Berlin in late afternoon. The Friedrichstrasse was in turmoil at 4 p.m. A United Press correspondent had to fight his way through crowds jammed outside Jewish shops, where rowdies were busy 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.

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.

Jewelry Scattered

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

Both Mr. Loewenstein and C. G. Schultz, owner of the second American-owned 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 complained 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 arrested in Breslau and Stuttgart. Mostly younger Jews of both sexes were arrested at Augsburg.

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