Kristallnacht

Shortly after Paul's return to Germany in the fall of 1938, the culmination of years of anti-Semitism and violence came with Kristallnacht, the night of shattered glass. One desperate act-the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, by a young Jew whose family had just been deported from Germany- was seized upon by the Nazis, who called the attack part of a plot by "International Jewry". Vom Rath died from his wounds on November 9, and Hitler used the assassin as a convenient scapegoat. That night the massive pogrom swept Germany: 91 Jews were killed and thousands more arrested, 170 synagogues were burned to the ground and more than 7,000 shops were destroyed. Kristallnacht served as a qualitative sharpening of fear among German Jews. It was a renewed outburst that they had thought wouldn't happen again after the first days of violence following Hitler's seizure of power. Thousands of Jews fled Germany in the days following the pogrom.

On the day following Kristallnacht, the Gestapo set out to arrest more Jews. At about eleven o'clock on the morning of November 10, a car drew up in front of the Wallichs' Potsdam house and three men got out. Hildegard opened the door herself. The men asked where they could find Herr Wallich. Hildegard told them that we was in Berlin in his office. She asked them if they were from the Gestapo and what they could possibly want with her husband- he had not been accused of anything. Yes, they said they were with the Gestapo and would return the following morning at 8 A.M. Hildegard called Paul at work to warn him not to come home.

At the bank that morning Paul had already been planning a business trip. Throughout the day, he heard of arrests taking place all over Berlin. Heeding his wife's warning, he boarded a train and went straight to Cologne, where he checked into a hotel.

The Gestapo didn't wait until the next morning to return to Potsdam. Police officials in civilian dress rang the bell early that evening and asked once again for Herr Wallich. Advised he was not at home, they left. Three hours later, a Nazi in civilian dress accompanied by another in SS uniform arrived at the house. Hildegard turned them away, saying her husband had not yet returned from work. When they came back the following evening a servant answered the door and said that Herr Wallich was away on business. A few hours later three uniformed Nazis returned and searched the entire house.

p. 45 The House at the Bridge

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