Horrors of Kristallnacht remembered in Santa Rosa

Although it was 75 years ago, Alfred Batzdorff still remembers seeing still-smoldering rubble of Jewish homes and businesses from the back of a police car in his hometown of Breslau, Germany.

Batzdorff described his growing terror when, taken at age 16 by a group of Nazi storm troopers, he felt the thud of their vehicle as it drove over water hoses being used to save non-Jewish homes adjoining the synagogue that had been burned to the ground and blasted with dynamite.

"There are images that, of course, you never forget," Batzdorff said Sunday before more than 300 people at Santa Rosa's Congregation Shomrei Torah.

75th Commemoration Of Kristallnacht


On Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi officers and troops staged a terrifying night of violence and destruction later known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass.

Nazi rioters burned or destroyed 267 synagogues, vandalized and looted 7,500 Jewish businesses and killed at least 91 Jewish people, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Kristallnacht was in many ways a turning point in the Nazi party's anti-Jewish campaign. That night, years of discrimination and anti-Semitic indoctrination transformed into systematic destruction, incarceration and mass murder.

On Sunday, Batzdorff and his wife, Susanne, shared their memories of that night at an event marking Kristallnacht's 75th anniversary at the Bennett Valley Road synagogue.

"Every time I remember, I shudder," Susanne Batzdorff said to the group that filled the sanctuary.

Susanne Batzdorff, who met Alfred when she was 11 years old and married him in 1944, read from two poems she wrote about that night. In one, she remembered the three young children she cared for who were killed in the Holocaust, including a girl still in diapers and a boy not yet in school.

"The children / Went to sleep / Before their time. / Their lullaby / The bark / Of German shepherds," she read.

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