The pogrom organized on Goebbels’ suggestion seventy-five years ago, on the night from 9th to 10th November, got its nice-sounding euphemistic name from the broken windows of the several thousand looted Jewish shops, synagogues and buildings. Only the recent German public discourse replaced it with the much more unambiguous “Pogromnacht”, which suggests taking on responsibility. This is reminded by the stores of Berlin on the locations of the former destruction with the broken glass transparencies applied on their shop windows.
Only 27 photos survived on the situation after the looting of at least three thousand shops in Berlin, which is a good indicator of the by then total control of photography in public space, to which we have referred in connection with Roman Vishniac’s Berlin photos. The twenty-seven photos have just been published together with commentaries and contemporary newspaper articles by the Kulturprojekte Berlin with the title Kristallnacht? Bilder der Novemberpogrome 1938 in Berlin. We will come back to it in detail.
Although the shop of the Berliner Schirm-Manufaktur Lichtenstein & Co., founded in 1877, was shortly before sold by its Jewish owner to a non-Jewish purchaser, the obligatory identification sign of Jewish property was still there on the shop window, this is why it was looted.
Although this is the only surviving photo on the Nürnberger Straße, but it clearly shows that the whole street’s shop window front – thus the Neugebauer hat shop and the Schiffner patisserie – are in ruins. The Jewish owners were obliged to immediately clean up the debris. Göring – who at the time, as the leader of the “ministry of the execution of the four-year plan”, was an opponent of Goebbels, and planned to expropriate the Jewish property not in a quick, popagandistic way, but in a gradual manner – warned that the huge insurance amounts would ruin the German insurance system. This was finally resolved so that these amounts were directed to the Treasury rather than to the owners, and used for the German preparations for war.
In the debris of the shop window one can still recognize the identifier of the Jewish owner, Wilhelm Philippi, which served as a guidance for the SS squads in civilian clothes. Immediately after the devastation, Philippi gave over his shop to a non-Jewish owner. Next to the shop, Berthold Neumann’s similarly looted wholesale piano shop (Kurfürstendamm 205).
The pogrom also claimed four hundred lives, and 30 thousand Jews were arrested and deported in the next day to the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. This was the first organized deportation of Jews. They and the other deported were remembered yesterday by the inhabitants of Berlin with the organized clean-up of the more than five thousand Stolpersteine, stumbling blocks in Berlin.
The largest-circulation Berlin daily newspaper BZ – Berliner Zeitung – entirely devoted its yesterday’s edition to the stumbling blocks: not just its front page, on which, as a virtual stolperstein, draws attention to the anniversary, but also in each page, where, not intrusively, but clearly spread over the news, publishes the photo of a stumbling block together with the portrait and biography of the person referred to by it.
And the Berlin churches organized for the afternoon a three-hour memorial march in the old town, along the Lutheran and Catholic cathedrals, along the scene of the Nazi book burning, along the portrait gallery set up in the Lustgarten of those expulsed in 1933, through the Wilhelmstraße, the former Nazi administrative district, all the way to the great synagogue. In front of the thousands of participants, the Mayor of Berlin, the Lutheran Bishop and the Catholic Archbishop, as well as the Chief Rabbi and a female rabbi of the synagogue gave a speech.
“Seventy-five years after the Reich’s pogrom night, we want to remember the evil deeds and the victims in silence, and to take on the responsibility that falls upon us from history.”