The morning after November 9, 1938

On November 9, 1938, the Community Centre Adass Yisroel the Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin were occupied and locked off-limits  by the secret state police. Any access was prevented. Only the caretaker was allowed to enter the house occasionally in exceptional cases and under Gestapo control for the purpose of maintenance and heating. It is thanks to him that part of the library was secretly taken out and ultimately reached Israel. A substantial part, Torah scrolls, holy books, archival records were looted or have been lost to this day.

Rabbi Dr Harry Zwí Levy lived at Oranienburger Strasse 33, right next to the New Synagogue and around the corner from the Adass Jisroel Centre. On weekdays he always prayed at 6 o’clock in the small synagogue of the Talmud Association “Chewrat Schass”, Oranienburger Strasse 32 and was also this Thursday morning, November 10th, at the door, when a police officer stopped him: “There’s nothing left, everything is burned“. Rabbi Dr. Levy wanted to go to another synagogue, and the policeman said: “Don’t do that, doctor, they are all burned or locked up“.

Not far away, Grenadierstrasse, 400 meters street, under the house numbers 6a, 36, 37, 32, 43 no less than 19 prayer rooms and smaller synagogues. Rabbi Dr Levy reports: “My second way was to Grenadierstrasse, where the most alarming news came from. Up to Muenzstrasse there was not the slightest noticeable … Only the rolling shutters of a number of Jewish shops were down (a district police captain had warned!). But then: my breath stopped. Where the street used to be, an almost meter-high pile of rubble, the whole dismembered inventory of the prayer rooms or synagogues, the Torah shrines and prayer desks smashed and half scorched, cups, candlesticks, Torah silver crushed, smashed, synagogue ceilings, curtains in the wildest mess and many hundreds of holy books half burned and half torn. A row of loose Gemara leaves flew through the air as if they wanted to resist destruction, and in between the holy Torah scrolls themselves partly torn, partly crushed, and in front of the houses, as unreal as shadows, human figures with eyes almost extinguished with horror and pain, helpless, unable to grasp the incomprehensible. At the edge of the street I saw non-Jews too, their features full of revulsion, indignation and shame. They sneaked away”.

Bertolt Brecht’s dictum may be modified: May “the others” talk about their never-ending shame until the end of the days…