Four Survivors of Kristallnacht – the 1938 “Night of Broken Glass” That Heralded the Holocaust in Germany and Austria – To Gather at Chapman University and Share Their Memories —

Images of four survivors of Kristallnacht now and then

Event This Thursday, November 7 at 4 p.m., Marks the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

WHAT:   “Four Perspectives on Kristallnacht: 75 Years Later”

WHERE:  Fish Interfaith Center, Chapman University – One University Drive, Orange, Calif.

WHEN:  Thursday, November 7 at 4 p.m.

ADMISSION:  Free and open to the public

WHO:   Four survivors and witnesses of Kristallnacht – who were children at the time of the fearful pogrom known as the “Night of Broken Glass” in Germany that began on November 9, 1938 – will gather at Chapman University to share their memories of that time.  They are:

  • Engelina Lowenberg Billauer (born in Berlin, Germany)
  • Curt Lowens (born in Berlin)
  • Idele Steuer Stapholtz (born in Dinslaken, Germany)
  • Cantor Leopold Szneer (born in Munich, Germany)

(All four survivors are now longtime residents of Los Angeles and Orange County)

They will be joined in a symposium-style format by experts and Holocaust educators, including Michael Bayzler (professor, Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University), Marilyn Harran (Stern Chair in Holocaust Education and director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman), Stefan Ionescu (research associate, Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman), Jennifer Keene (professor and chair of the Chapman history department), Shira Klein (assistant professor in the Chapman history department) and Jeff Koerber (research associate, Rodgers Center).

WHY:  This weekend marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” in which a tidal wave of Nazi violence swept through Germany and Austria, leaving in its wake not only broken glass, burnt synagogues, and desecrated Torahs, but shattered human lives.

To us, these events seem remote at best. For many of our Chapman University students, not even their grandparents were alive then. Since then, our world has experienced violence of far greater magnitude. In comparison, the events of November 9-10, 1938, while terrible, seem of much less consequence. Broken glass? We have seen so much worse. Perhaps 100 people were killed; we know of genocides in which millions have been murdered.  So, why focus on Kristallnacht?

The answer to that question comes when we hear of those events from those who experienced them–as we will at Chapman University this Thursday.  In November 1938, all four of our speakers were at the start of their lives.  Engelina was 11; Idele was 12; Curt was 13, and Leopold, the oldest, was 16. Young as they were, they had already experienced bigotry and brutality. They had seen their parents, once respected members of German society, belittled and ostracized, robbed of their professions, their livelihood, their homes. They had been harassed and humiliated in school–a place where every child should feel safe–by both their teachers and their classmates, told that as Jews they were unworthy of sitting in a classroom with “true” Germans. They had already suffered in ways that no child ever should. Yet, they could still cling to the hope that their neighbors, acquaintances and friends would one day draw a line, would say that enough was enough. They were still children with hope.

Kristallnacht brought that hope to an end. Kristallnacht was not simply more of the same. That night violence knew no boundaries. Not even the sacred–indeed, especially not the sacred–was spared. As arsonists set more than 250 synagogues on fire across Germany and Austria, firemen stood next to their trucks and watched, following the orders they had been given not to intervene unless non-Jewish property was threatened. Policemen gingerly walked on sidewalks filled with shattered glass, being careful not to get in the way of the Nazi thugs systematically breaking windows and looting Jewish stores and offices.

The next morning brought even more of the unthinkable as some 30,000 men and teenagers were torn from their families and taken to Dachau and other concentration camps. What had they done?  Their “crime” was being a Jew.   Leopold Szneer, only 16, was one of those teenagers who was beaten and transported to Dachau.

On Thursday, we will hear of a little girl hiding behind a desk in an orphanage; a young man ripped away from his home; a boy on his bicycle frantically trying to peddle his way home while dodging the stones hurled at him by the Hitler Youth; a girl using sign language to reassure her parents that they would make it through the night. No longer will these events seem distant and intangible; instead, they will become personal and real.

Far more than glass was shattered on Kristallnacht. What was destroyed was hope– the hope we place in one another in times of need; the hope that humans will stand together. And yet, it is hope that brings these survivors to our campus. They hope that we can learn and remember. They hope we will find the courage to stand up to bigotry and hatred. They hope we can do better than their neighbors and friends did that night.

(Text from the Chapman University Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education blog:

To Attend and Cover This Event, or for More Media Information, CONTACT:

Mary Platt

Director of Communications and Media Relations

Chapman University

One University Drive, Orange, CA

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