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15 November 1938

Dear Madam,

You asked me for an overview of my journey, which I made to Germany on 13 November. As I was in great disquiet about my father and sister, last Saturday evening I travelled to W., where I found my family well. W. used to have a thriving Jewish community which under these circumstances now is much reduced. I saw the synagogue there, which had gone up in flames, a miserable picture. A fence in the vicinity bore the inscription “Revenge on Judaism!” The home of the Jewish teacher next door had not one intact window pane, the curtains were flapping out of the window. At a butcher’s the large shop windows were completely destroyed and much inside the shop had also been destroyed. The windows were stuck with brown paper from the outside. Two manufacturing businesses had been completely emptied out, the goods there had been taken away by lorry on Thursday. In my parental house everything was intact and undamaged; in W. on the whole it still appeared human.

Thursday in the morning at 5 o’clock they had picked up my father and sister from the house and shut them in a small room with all the others from the community. 30 women and children were in one room and 17 men. There were several old people, one woman was already over 89 and quite deaf, they had smashed all her windows as she had not woken up. Some of them were interrogated, then the women were released at eleven o’clock. There was an SA man on guard in front of every home when they returned, he watched them the whole day. My sister had the great fortune to have a decent person at her place, who was so moved that he cried. The men, including my father of 77 years, were transported in a cattle truck to L. They had put benches into them. All those arrested, including those from the place itself, were brought to the abattoir, into the room where the animals were slaughtered, where the axes and knives were sharpened in their presence! There the elderly, over seventy, were released after a caution, and my father was able to go home again with three others. After his homecoming there was a house search and all the cash was taken, also that of the Jewish community, and for the poor. The people there all have no money; in fortunate cases they get a bit of welfare.

My sister’s fiancé and his father were taken away to Oranienburg. They live at L.; some are appallingly housed there. There are families there with no bed any more and no unbroken cup to drink from. Six or seven deserted women were put together and do not know where to turn. I spoke to one woman who had been robbed of everything; her family consisted of 6 people, her only daughter had been taken from her by death, one son in South America, one 17-year-old boy in a youth prison and her husband and son taken away. Everything in the house had been smashed. The worst of it for these poor people is that they did not know where their husbands could be. In L. meanwhile the lovely synagogue with official residence was burnt down, one supposes before they had had time to take out all the valuables. When they came to get the people in the morning they were surprised in their sleep, they stood armed with clubs by the beds of the startled people. They could put on the most essential things by the light of a candle held by one of the brutes who completed their work of destruction if there was time. Wash basins were thrown at mirrors, nothing remained intact. My future brother-in-law came away in his nightshirt without socks or underwear, his distraught mother was taken to the train in pantaloons. Table silver as well as the ornaments were also seized from people who were going to emigrate. In W. the Jews also received a receipt for the goods that had been taken. I visited a pair of prominent families and I shall never forget the mute shock: it was as if the people had turned to stone.

H. de Groot-Cossen, Groningen

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