Contemporary witnesses

Testimonies from
November 1938

The beginning of systematic persecution

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 November pogrom, Centropa is presenting on excerpts from interviews with Viennese Jews who share personal stories from the year 1938.

These narratives often do not begin with the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938, but start as early as March 1938 with the so-called “Anschluss” of Austria to the German Reich. While the majority of the Austrian population welcomed the invading German troops on  March 12, 1938 with enthusiasm, a difficult time was now beginning for the Jewish population. From this moment forward they could be openly discriminated against – as, for example, with the so-called “Reibpartie,”a term describing groups of Jewish citizens who were forced to scrub the streets with brushes while neighbors and onlookers watched.

The background picture above shows the destroyed and desecrated interior of the Stadttempel (City Prayer House) at Seitenstettengasse 4 on November 10, 1938 (Photo: Yad Vashem Archives | Item ID: 512)

How did Jews experience the year 1938 and the November pogroms in Austria?

Paul Back

Paul Back reports on how he experienced the Nazi takeover in Austria when he was twelve years old.
Here you can read about how Paul initially found the Wehrmacht uniforms and marches very fascinating.

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Kurt Brodmann

Kurt Brodmann was fifteen years old at the time of the November pogroms. Here he describes his memories of how his mother gave away her ticket to safe Shanghai in order to to take care of his grandfather.

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Paul Rona

Paul Rona was less than seventeen years old when he and his father were arrested on pogrom night. Paul was released but his father was deported to a concentration camp.

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Wilhelm Steiner

Wilhelm Steiner was eighteen years old in November 1938 and had to watch how his family’s business was plundered. When he wanted to intervene, he was accused of insulting Hitler and arrested.

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Gertrude Kritzer

In 1938, Gertrude Kritzer was fifteen years old. On the morning of November 10, her father, Adolf Roman Braun, was arrested, detained and tortured for ten days. Learn how Gertrude’s mother tried to prevent the arrest here.

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Heinz Klein

Heinz Klein was deported to a concentration camp the day after the November pogroms and flew to Palestine immediately after his release.

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Sophie Hirn

Sophie Hirn was nine years old when she experienced the November pogroms. She reports on how being excluded by the Nazis ultimately strengthened her relationship to Jewish tradition.

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Want to learn more about the November Pogroms?

The reports and films featured on this site are just a glimpse into the multi-faceted history of the November Pogroms in 1938. We’ve put together an extensive directory of resources to help you deepen your knowledge.

The image in the background shows a destroyed shoe store in Vienna on November 10, 1938
(Photo: Wiener Library/DöW F. Nr. 6392)

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