An annual ecumenical service commemorates the night that has gone down in history as the night of the reich pogroms. This year, a good 200 people from all walks of life and all ages gathered in front of the town hall in lichtenfels, including many children and young people. However, the event was not quite as intimate as in previous years. A considerable amount of noise was caused by the setting up of the hamburger fish market, which takes place on the market square on weekends.
Deanery youth officer reiner babucke reminded the audience of the 9. November 1938. "In lichtenfels, too, the synagogue was "desecrated" by national socialist bands, said babucke. Windows were smashed, curtains torn down, and prayer reels smashed with axes. The handwritten torah scrolls were taken out of the torah shrine and destroyed amid the cheers and jeers of an agitated crowd. The same terrible treatment was meted out to people of the jewish faith. They were plundered, beaten and publicly mocked. It was the beginning of the end.
In 1933, there were still 69 jewish residents in lichtenfels, whose number had decreased to 48 by 1938 due to emigration. Deportations took place until 1942, after which there was no longer any jewish life in lichtenfels. But how could it come about that most germans only looked on and many became doers themselves??
"What it is like to stand alone?", asked bad staffelstein’s town pastor georg birkel. "Is it possible to survive the situation as an individual, to withstand the pressure of the masses?? It takes someone to stand by you", said pastor birkel. Just as a trunk with a forked branch cannot stand alone, a human being cannot survive this situation. With a lot of patience, perseverance and skill, a whole row of people with branch forks formed a crowd in front of the town hall that stood firm like a rock in the surf. The message, the song "alone you are small, but together we will be the advocate of the living" printed this in words. Organizer of the ecumenical peace prayer, which this year was held under the motto "learning from the past is hope for the future" the evangelical youth in the deanery of michelau, the archbishop’s youth office, the federation of german catholic youth (BDKJ), and the evangelical and catholic church communities in lichtenfels. With a prayer and the song "hewenu shalom alejchem" the prayer for peace ended.
Respected and respected citizens a few years later publicly mocked, ridiculed, exploited and beaten. A fate that was also experienced by people of the jewish faith in lichtenfels on the night of the reich pogroms. But what happened on 9. November 1938? An insight into the events of those years was given by district curator of local history gunter dippold following the peace prayer during a small guided tour organized by the SPD local association. Dippold restricted himself to bamberger strabe and the city center. But how did it come about that a raging mob turned against hitherto respected burghers? Two days earlier, on 7. November 1938, there was an assassination attempt on the german diplomat ernst eduard vom rath in paris by the17-year-old polish jew herschel grynszpan. Von rath died two days later. "After the death of ernst vom rath, joseph goebbels set the machinery in motion in his speech to high-ranking nazi leaders in munich", explained dippold. A telephone instruction also reached the gauleitung in bayreuth and from there the kreisleitung in lichtenfels. As a result, in a barbaric act of terrorism, the lives of jewish citizens of lichtenfels were also threatened and their property destroyed. The merchant carl kraus, a respected and very old citizen, was hit particularly hard. He was driven from his house at marktplatz 21 through the city to the synagogue, wearing only a shirt and trousers. His store was plundered, the shop windows smashed and the plundered materials taken away by truck.
The investigation files of the coburg public prosecutor’s office from 1949 provide a frightening insight into what happened that night. A contemporary witness, walter kohn, who was 15 years old at the time, remembered a remark by kraus, who asked his uniformed torturers why they didn’t just beat him to death. "We do not murder, he got the answer. Carl kraus had to sell his house in 1939. He died in january 1940 and was one of the last to be buried in the jewish cemetery in lichtenfels. A little later his grave was desecrated like all the others. The alfred oppenheimer family was also hit hard. Her emigration to the USA was already as good as certain. They were held responsible for trying to secretly take valuables from their possessions when they emigrated in may 1939. The lichtenfelser zeitung slandered them as "schieber-juden" and the gross criminal division of the coburg district court sentenced them to imprisonment for violating the foreign exchange law. "It was their property that they wanted to take with them for a new life," explained dippold, said dippold. Emigration had become impossible.
Two renowned companies, zinn and pauson, had set up shop opposite the bahnhofsplatz. Paul zinn, decorated with two medals in the first world war, poisoned himself with a disinfectant under the impression of the events of the pogrom night and died two weeks later in the hospital in hochstadt. His brother stefan, a sales representative, was arrested in regensburg and taken to dachau. Later he and his family succeeded in emigrating. That night, the jewish population could not even hope for help from the police. A call came from the house of the merchant robert pauson, who was on a business trip in italy. At home were his 75-year-old mother rosa and two non-jewish maids. An eyewitness watching the event from the train station saw three men ramming the door with a beam and shouts of "hauruck!. When the owner of the house got upset, they called her a "pig of the jews" to. Some people from lichtenfels had to watch their entire existence being literally cut to shreds. Others faced massive abuse. In the teacher seliger’s apartment, the shutters were smashed and everything that could be chopped up was destroyed. His wife was hit particularly hard by the loss of her property. She remained missing for weeks until her body was pulled out of the water near reundorf.
The synagogue in lichtenfels also fell victim to an angry mob. Eight men rammed the door with a beam. "It was organized and deliberate violence", according to dippold.