Exhibition to the Reich pogrom night: What the Nazis stole from the synagogues


While Nazi troops on may 9. November burn of 1938 Jewish synagogues in Germany, German Museum Directors-on the lookout: you want to Judaica for their collections.

They came with Axes and torches. In the night from 9. on the 10. November 1938, stormed the SA and SS men of the “Small synagogue” in Würzburg. They rioted, tore down the lamps from the walls, destroyed the interior. The door of the Tora-Shrine splintered. Until today, the crack moves along like a scar on the cassette door.

During the November pogroms were burned by the troops of the national socialist regime approximately 1,400 synagogues in low – and thus about half of all Jewish houses of worship in Germany and Austria. Thousands of Jewish shops were destroyed. Over 30,000 Jews arrested and sent to concentration camps. A lot of people died.

“Small synagogue” in Würzburg, Germany before the pogrom-night

And the Nazis plundered, took Torah roles, and essays, Rabbi robes, Hanukkah menorah, Kiddush Cup and plate – much to the delight of German Museum Directors.

Raffsucht as a leitmotif

“Since we’re Museum people need to hold ourselves to the nose: it was simply a greed to own as much as possible and to enlarge the collection of its own,” said Bernhard Purin, Director of the Jewish Museum in Munich. Museums in cities such as Aschaffenburg, Mainz, Würzburg and Vienna, the device received during the Nazi-era stolen Jewish Ritual or acquired it themselves.

Even in small towns like Schnaittach at Nuremberg, the Director of the Museum was: Because he wanted to set up in the building of the synagogue to be Museum, prevented Gottfried Stammler, the destruction of the house during the pogrom, and gathered the Ritual and furnishings – in the following days also in other middle Franconian municipalities. According to experts, there was, at one time the “largest collection of Testimonies of Jewish life in the country in the South of Germany”.

Seven crates with Jewish Material

Is surpassed these now, but due to a detection in the main-Franconian Museum – today the Museum of the Swiss franc in Würzburg. When you attempt to serialize the entire stocks of inventory, met with staff directions to 2016 on several boxes with Torah-and -essays, mugs, candlesticks, and others. The approximately 150 objects, some of them destroyed beyond recognition, because the Museum had been bombed in 1945.

Purine examined the found Museum pieces

For two years, purine examined the pieces. “You have to approach them like a Puzzle,” he says. “First, you sit stumped in front of it, the characteristics appear as a result a trace.” The finished picture at the end: About a third of the items seized during the November pogroms of 1938, synagogues in and around Würzburg. Are you currently at the Jewish Museum in Munich – including the Torah-in closet with the splintered door.

Close cooperation with the Nazi authorities

The museums took the Jewish property, however, not only about the pogrom night; they received it from private ownership, when the Nazis confiscated the Jews. Evidence in the case files of the Gestapo office in Würzburg.

Also, Torah essays were sought by the Museum Directors

Friendship and a close collaboration between museums and Nazi authorities played a Central role, says Purin: “In Würzburg, it was a very amikabel: The Gau leader of Franconia, for example, was a former school PAL of the Director of the main-Franconian Museum.” And so about a Hanukkah menorah from Miltenberg can be found in the exhibition. The place where the said Gau Manager on the morning of the 10. November, was. “But we can only speculate about whether the brought him in.”

Interest in the arts and crafts

Have been issued, the objects at the time. The natural history Museum of Vienna, presented in the year 1939 an anthropological Look at the “physical and emotional appearance of the Jews.” And in Prague, the SS kept the “Jewish Central Museum”.

The Directors went there often anyway more to the arts and crafts and is home to the historical value of the Jewish assets. Most of them were forging of Christian silver or the brass objects – Rotgießern made. “Of Munich, for example, we know that man has sought out such objects, because the aim was to document the local craft art in the city Museum,” says purine.

This Berlin synagogue was looted by the Nazis in the Reich pogrom night, and then plugged in

Ostensibly did so with the service of a supposedly higher cause to argue, my Christine Bach and Carolin Long from the Museum of francs: “You saved the objects from destruction and was free of charge to new exhibits.”

Ensure, burned, displaced

In such evasions are also many museums pounced after the war: In a letter about a former Aschaffenburg Museum staff described the seizure as a “position”.

A different Version of the Shoah, to listen to the Survivors of Mordecai W. Bernstein, who researched after the war in Germany the history of the destroyed Jewish communities. His search brought him to Würzburg. He cited the post-war Director of the main-Franconian Museum, Max Hermann von Freeden: “It was war, total war, my Lord! And the allied pilots were brave, oh, yeah, everything, everything is destroyed!”

View of the exhibition “Seven crates with Jewish Material”

“Often, it was also claimed that there are objects from the pre-war collection”, tells purine. “The perpetrators in the museums have been trying after the war to cover their tracks.”

The future of looted art

In the 1970s and 80s that changed slowly. The society in Germany began with the Holocaust. And the museums followed. The current exhibition was the debate, now a further impetus.

Because according to German law, after the war founded the Jewish communities are not actually the legal successor of the pre-war municipalities. In mid-October of the würzburg city Council has taken a decision in principle, according to the findings Trustees to be passed to the Israelite community. And has signaled that it wants to let the objects of a long-term loan to the Museum for Swiss francs. As the Torah Cabinet.

The exhibition “Seven crates with Jewish Material” in the Jewish Museum in Munich will run until 01. May 2019. From the 04. June 2019 will then be seen in the Museum of Franconia in Wurzburg.

Also recommended: on the Occasion of the 80. Anniversary of the November pogroms shows the topography of terror documentation centre in Berlin up to 3. March 2019, which is called “Kristallnacht anti – Jewish Terror in 1938. The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, presented for the 80. Anniversary of the pogrom night, an Online exhibition.