77th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

Today, November 9, 2015, is the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. As a tribute to the millions of victims of the Shoah, the following is the story of one Holocaust survivor, written by Baruch Garner in honor of his mother:

Cwetla Grynbaum
Cwetla Grynbaum

Cwetla Grynbaum was born in Wloclawek, Poland in 1919. She worked in the family bakery until she married Itzak Szajak when she was 19 years old. My mother and new husband moved to Warsaw. The war started on September 1, 1939 and the lives of my family was changed forever. September 15, 1939 Wloclawek was occupied and the Jews were ordered to sew on the yellow star and Jews were immediately excluded from professional and educational life in Wloclawek. On September 24, 1939 all five synagogues are burnt to the ground and a ghetto is established in Wloclawek. On October 22, 1942 the ghetto is liquidated and all the residents are moved either to the Lodz ghetto for a few more months or weeks of life or are sent to the concentration camp at Chelmno.

They are transported in large trucks. The trucks have their exhaust piped back into the back of the trucks. The Jews arrive dead and are thrown into pits in the forests of Chelmno. This is how my mother lost eight members of her immediate family, not to mention the scores of aunts uncles and cousins.

With her husband in the Warsaw ghetto they manage to survive until the ghetto is liquidated after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943. The Ghetto is destroyed and my mother and husband are in a bunker on Mila street and sent to Majdanek on the last transport from the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1943. Majdanek is the epitome of hell on earth and my mother is pregnant and her husband is murdered by the Nazis.

In June 1943 my mother is transported to Auschwitz on a cattle car and tattooed with the number 49687 on her arm. She is assigned to work at the IG Farber munitions factory in Auschwitz. Around her there is nothing but death. In Auschwitz she gives birth to a son, my brother, but because his discovery would mean instant death for her and for the barracks, he is taken away by the women on her block.

Cwetla Grynbaum
Cwetla Grynbaum

The Germans know that the red army is close and attempt to hide their crimes. In January 1945, my mother along with others is sent on a death march west into Germany. My mother discovers she is with her younger sister and they are able to help each other. They are marched to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. Many women fall unable to keep up. Those who fall are murdered. They arrive at Ravensbruck in April/May 1945. As it is overcrowded they are marched on to concentration camp Malchow where, miraculously, they are liberated by the red army.

This is not the full account of my Mother’s war years. Most of the most horrific parts are excluded and this is only one story. There are over six million stories just as horrific and just as compelling.

I had to tell my mother’s story to honour her and her family and to try to ensure that the Shoah is remembered .


In this blog, I would like to explore people, religion, culture, ancestry and important history. If you have a compelling story to tell like this one, maybe a family story or something on the topics of ancestry, interfaith, immigration, etc., contact me on Facebook.

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4 thoughts on “77th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

  1. I have just looked up the info on Kristallnacht. I had heard of this word before but didn’t know what it was about. How sad that a word that conjures up images (to me anyway) of Christmas and glitter and all things festive, actually refers to such an horrific act. Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maureen, for having the interest and for taking the time to look it up. I included a link at the top of the article, for all those who’d like a brief description of what happened on November 9-10, 1938. Just click on the word, “Kristallnacht” at the top.

      Like

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