She is 93 now, swept by the years and the tides of history to a place called Scottsdale and a time far removed from her night of living nightmares.
But the night is with her still. “I feel it in my body like it was yesterday,” Henni Glick says. “It never leaves me.” The night came for her in Glehn, a village in western Germany where she lived with her parents and her brother, Max.
For others, it came in Berlin, in Munich, in every nook of Adolf Hitler’s realm. It came as notice that humanity was on the cusp of something monstrously new and unimaginable, and it rang with frightful suddenness as nothing less than the opening bell of the Holocaust. It has a name, unique in history for its evocation of evil.
Kristallnacht, they call it.
Night of Crystal.
Night of Broken Glass.
Henni Schnook, 18 years old, stirred uneasily as the rest of her family settled into bed on the cool night of Nov. 9, 1938. They were Jews living in the Third Reich. Cause enough, perhaps, for disquiet. Already, for nearly six years, the Nazis had used laws and sanctions to make life increasingly difficult for the country’s half-million children of Abraham. Violence, however, had been the exception, not the rule. Henni and her family had gotten along. In fact, her father had openly dismissed Hitler’s anti-Semitic bluster as posing any real threat. Now, tensions were high in the wake of an assassination in Paris, where a young Jew stood accused of murdering a German Embassy official. Whether it was that, or something else, Henni cannot say. But, in any event, “I had a premonition.”
The moon was nearly full. Henni got up. She dressed. “It was quiet, like midnight. I still remember what I had on. I wore a blue sweater, blue skirt and blue shoes. Shoes with strings, like I have on now. “And I went into my parents’ room. My father was snoring. And I woke them. “I said, ‘Papa, I think the Nazis are coming today.’ “He says, ‘Are you crazy? You had a dream. Go back to bed. You’re fantasizing.’ “I said ‘No,’ and at that same moment, there was a knock on the door downstairs. With an ax, not with the hands. They had an ax, and they made themselves come in. And they came in, and they did a good job.”
The Nazis demolished everything in the house and in her father’s dry-goods shop next door. Including, yes, the crystal. “My mother had beautiful crystal. When I think about it, I could cry.” While the Nazis were at work, the family fled through the kitchen, out the back door, their little dog barking as he ran along. They hid in a neighbor’s barn and waited until daylight. “We came home. We came in the back door. And it was a sight — I cannot describe it. Everything torn apart. ... Mother cried like a baby.”
All across Germany, Austria, the Sudetenland, the same. Homes and shops ransacked. Synagogues burned. Jews attacked, about 100 of them fatally. The pogrom had been coordinated from the top of the Reich down, using the Paris assassination as a pretext. Historical accounts vary widely as to the number of synagogues destroyed — the one in Henni’s village was among them. But there is general agreement that on Kristallnacht and in the days after, about 30,000 German Jews were taken to concentration camps solely because of their ethnicity. That was a grim escalation of anti-Jewish policy.
The savage campaign was noted in The Arizona Republic on Nov. 11 under a one-column headline that read, “Mad Nazi looters raid Jews.” The AP story described the attacks as “the greatest wave of anti-Jewish violence since Adolf Hitler came to power.” Two days later, the paper, wondering in an editorial what was afoot, could only stab at a theory.
“It is not enough at this time to say that Hitler is insane,” The Republic said. “Something has made a deep impress of insanity upon not merely Germany but upon the world.” Valley historian Paul Wieser says Kristallnacht was the harbinger of doom for 6 million Jews across Europe. Wieser, who lives in Glendale, is a former education director for the Arizona Region of the Anti-Defamation League and a former director of the ADL’s Braun Holocaust Institute, Glick Center for Holocaust Studies. He also is a fellow of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
“Everybody thinks the Nazis come to power, they immediately have this plan to start killing people and genocide,” Wieser says. “That’s not true. It evolved. For basically the first five years, the plan was territorial. In other words, you make it hard on these people and they’ll leave. “The significance of Kristallnacht is that it marks a turning point in Nazi policy toward the Jews and how they are going to handle the so-called Jewish question. And now, the way they were going to do it will be through violence. ... This is now the final stage.”
Kristallnacht plunged Henni’s family into a maelstrom of agony. When they arrived home that morning, a policeman was waiting. He arrested Henni’s father, Albert, a decorated veteran of German forces during the Great War. For whatever reason, he did not take Max, who was 25 years old. Max went to the town hall and offered to take his father’s place. The police agreed. “What do you know, they took him to Dachau,” Henni says. “That was one of the very first camps. That was a death camp.” Henni then paid her own visit to the authorities. She talked them into returning the family’s 1933 BMW, which had been taken by the Nazis. She drove her parents to Dusseldorf, just northeast of Glehn. They stayed two or three nights with friends, then went home. “We cleaned up a little bit. And then comes an order: All Jews have to move out of this town.” In fact, Wieser says, the Nazis were making a show of expelling Jews from Germany even while impeding their efforts to leave, although about 300,000 did manage to escape. “It was difficult to get out of Germany because of the restrictions that were placed on you,” Wieser says. “But the bigger question was: Who’s going to take you?” The United States was not a likely destination, he says, because of rigid immigration rules. Henni’s mother, Regina, had saved some money. She tried to buy passage to Uruguay. The travel agency took her money and stiffed her on the tickets. “They moved us to Cologne (just south of Dusseldorf).” There, the family lived on the bottom floor of a run-down building with another Jewish family upstairs. “My brother came home. We got him home out of the Dachau place, with knowing somebody who said, ‘I will help you get him out. But he will leave the country. He cannot stay here, he has to go.’ ” Max tried to cross Germany’s western border but was arrested again. He survived a series of jails and camps, Henni says, until the very end of the war. “My brother, on the last couple days, he was killed. He lived all the way through. And then, they were on a death march, and he tried to run away, and they got him.” Henni was eventually separated from her parents. Her mother also died in the Holocaust.
“I don’t know how, and I’m better off not knowing how.” But her father survived. The so-called death marches were common as German lines collapsed at the end of the war. Trying to cover their tracks, the Nazis evacuated tens of thousands prisoners in hopes of executing them en masse elsewhere. Henni herself was on a death march, early in 1945. The war had carried her from Germany to a ghetto in Latvia, and from there to the Stutthof death camp in northern Poland. Stutthof, among the most notoriously brutal of all Nazi prisons, was noted for the invention of a process by which soap was made from the fat of murdered Jews. “We were on a death march, and I was liberated early in the morning by the Russian army. ... I was a little over 80 pounds at the time. A skeleton. I was 25 years old.” Sick with typhoid fever, Henni was taken by the Russians to a hospital in the city now called Gdansk. One day, she awoke to find a bouquet of lilacs near her bed. They were from a young man who remembered her from the ghetto. His name was Reuven Koppel. He asked her out for a walk. Within two days, he proposed. “We were married in Germany after we were liberated, and we lived for four years in the town that threw us out.” Of the 10 or 12 Jewish families who had lived in Glehn before the war, “I was the only one who came back.”
In the summer of 1949, they booked passage on a converted World War II transport vessel, the USS General C.H. Muir. At Ellis Island, they became Henni and Ralph Glick, taking the last name of Ralph’s sponsoring Latvian uncles who had immigrated to Pennsylvania before the war. Starting from scratch, they built a life. After 23 years in rural Pennsylvania, they moved to Phoenix and then to Scottsdale in 1995. Both of their sons, Daniel and Ronald, became doctors. Ralph died in 2001.
Wieser, the Holocaust historian, will not be drawn into a discussion of whether certain political or social trends in this country could spawn something similar. It is pointless, he says, to seek such parallels — and equally pointless to compare the Holocaust with historical depredations such as slavery and the American Indian wars. There have indeed been other genocides, but Wieser says each wore its own brand of evil and sprang from its own circumstances. “The president is sometimes compared to Hitler, and this is absolutely nonsense,” Wieser says. “This is a unique historical event, and I think to do that dishonors the victims and the survivors and their families.”
For Henni Glick, as for millions of others, one question lingers. “I wonder why. I don’t get an answer. If there is a God up there, why did he let that happen?” But truth be told, she lays more blame at Hitler’s feet than God’s. “Hitler was a wild animal in a human body. He was born a devil. Which human being do you know would do things like that?”
The original article for the article written by Gary Nelson published on November 9, 2013 copied below can be found online at AZ Central http://www.azcentral.com/community/scottsdale/articles/20131028holocaust-kristallnacht-scottsdale-woman-remembers.html