Kristallnacht - The end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?



On 10th November 1938, three SS-men entered my uncle’s store and told him, ‘Give us the keys to the store!’ But Moses Zwick refused to give them the keys. And so they knocked out all his teeth, took the keys away, and he was never allowed to set foot in the store again. That was the end of the company ‘Uri & Zwick’. (Max Uri)

Centropa, a Vienna-based oral history project, interviewed 1,200 elderly Jews in Europe, almost 100 of them in Vienna. Rather than use video, we digitized the interviewee´s family snapshots. 

For this website, which commemorates the Novemberpogrom against Jewish citizens in Germany and Austria in 1938, Centropa has selected 15 excerpts from our interviews with elderly Viennese Jews that we conducted since 2000.

German and Austrian Jews brought Nobel prizes and Olympic gold medals to their countries. They had fought in their armies, built businesses and raised families.  But with the rise of the Nazis, it had all been for naught. The November pogrom against Jewish citizens throughout Germany and Austria in 1938, infamously known as "Kristallnacht", was a turning point in history. The pogroms marked a dramatic intensification of Nazi anti-Jewish policy.  

Jewish-owned stores, community centers, and homes were plundered and destroyed during the pogroms. Encouraged by the Nazi regime, the rioters burned or destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized or looted 7,500 Jewish businesses, and killed at least 91 Jewish people. They also damaged many Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes as police and fire brigades stood aside.

Read how our Austrian interviewees remember the Anschluss of March 12, 1938, the following months, the night of November 9, 1938, and what happened to their families in the days and weeks after. 

Paul Back

Born in Vienna in 1926
(20th district)

Edith Brickell

Born in Vienna in 1923
(1st district)

Kurt Brodmann

Born in Vienna in 1923
(22nd district)

Julius Chaimowicz

Born in Vienna in 1932
(20th district)

Heinz Klein

Born in Vienna in 1917,
lived in Graz

Paul Rona

Born in Vienna in 1922
(20th district)

Kitty Suschny

Born in Vienna in 1924
(2nd district)

Gerda Feldsberg

Born in Vienna in 1930
(9th district)

Gertrude Kritzer

Born in 1923 in Krumbach
expelled from there in 1938 to Vienna

Lilli Tauber

Born in Vienna in 1927
Expelled from Wiener Neustadt
to Vienna in 1938

Kitty Schrott

Born in Laa/Thaya in 1934
expelled from there in 1938 to Vienna

Sophie Hirn

Born in Vienna in 1929
(20th district)

Erwin Landau

Born in Vienna in 1929
(2nd district)

Max Uri

Born in Vienna in 1921
(1st district)

Wilhelm Steiner

Born in Vienna in 1920
(20th district)