Testimony by

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.

Wilhelm Steiner in prison in Switzerland (1939)

“There were thieves everywhere ...”

The day after Kristallnacht a provisional administrator for the store arrived. This provisional administrator was Viennese and a thief. There were thieves everywhere, official and unofficial ones. This administrator took all the money he could find; he simply put everything into his own pocket. This triggered a discussion and I protested loudly, after all I couldn’t assess what was really going on. I told him, ‘You’re a pig. You’re stealing everything here, how can you know what will happen in two years’ time? How do you know? And who knows, things may change.’ Whereupon this provisional administrator, this thief locked the store from the inside and called the police. He claimed that I had insulted the ‘Führer.’

“He claimed that I had insulted Hitler, the Führer.”

Viennese policemen arrived, arrested me and took me to the police station. The detective superintendent said to me, ‘Tell me, boy, are you out of your mind? How can you say something like that?’ I denied everything and asked him, ‘Would you be so kind as to call my parents and tell them that my bicycle is in front of the store?’ He actually did it. From the station I was taken to the Gestapo where I was interrogated by this young fellow, a typical Viennese. He said to me, ‘What for God’s sake do you think you are doing?’ To which I replied, ‘But I didn’t say anything, I said nothing at all. He was stealing everything there and he probably didn’t like the idea that I saw it. And so he had me arrested.’

Big photo above:

Wilhelm Steiner cutting wood in Switzerland (1939)

Photo taken in:

Switzerland (1939)


Wilhelm Steiner

Year of interview:



Tanja Eckstein


Learn more about Wilhelm Steiner?

You can find the whole biography of Wilhelm Steiner here on the Centropa website (in German only).

You can find many more photos of Wilhelm Steiner and his family here in the Centropa photography database.


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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