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Chapter 12: 1938 — The June ‘Operation Work Shy’ and the November 9/10 Reichspogromnacht, Kristallnacht

Paul Rosengarten, Spring 1938, and right, upon release from Buchenwald, August 1938.

He was picked up by the Gestapo in June 1938, at his job at Heiman and Mai and declared a vagrant and sent to Buchenwald, in August he came out on a stretcher. It was a miracle, usually, if you could not walk you were finished. The photo on the right was taken after his release from Buchenwald and before his rearrest in the November pogrom, Kristallnacht.

[Editor’s Note: On June 15, 1938, German Criminal Police officials arrested around 9,000 asocials and convicted criminals in the so-called “Operation Work Shy” (“Aktion Arbeitsscheue Reich”), and sent them to concentration camps. Among those arrested were approximately 1,000 Jews. This was the first mass arrest of Jews in Nazi Germany.]

After my father’s incarceration in Buchenwald [in June 1938], I was called home and got his job for his pay and I was about 16 years old. It all ended on Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), Nov. 10th 1938. At 2 a.m., we were arrested, my father and I, and our landlady and her daughter. They took her cane away, so the girl and I helped the best we could. Later a SS guy, whose wife worked at Heimann and Mai, tried a little to protect us. Anyway, we were all pushed around, but not beaten, I still can hear my mother’s screams. They stuck us in the air raid shelter under the City Hall, the jail was full. Frühauf got badly beaten. The Rabbi came himself, he had not been arrested, he wore only a nightshirt and one slipper. The panic and depression was indescribable. After all, we were good Germans….! My boss Mr. Heimann and I suddenly became equals. In order to cheer him up, I made a deck of cards from a notebook and with a red and black pencil, which I happened to have on me. First there was some grumbling, then the old card club got together and played the whole night through. The Rabbi was the first to give in. In the morning, I helped to hand out coffee and dry buns. Then I was called out and got screamed at by some big shot Nazi, all about the evil of everything Jewish. Then they let me go. I went home to my mother, who was all right, packed a briefcase with a change of underwear, my toothbrush and razor and some papers, took a little money, we did not have very much, went to the railroad station, bought a Nazi newspaper to hide behind and took it on the lam, before they could change their minds.

For some reason, I was called 6 times, to be released, to the gate in Buchenwald, and I was not even in there. Finally, my father went to the gate to report this fact, so they let him go. My brother had rescued 5 Sefer Torahs Scrolls out of the burning Synagogue in Schleusingen, where he worked at that time for Theo Götz. The Nazis beat him up and because he would not tell where he hid them, they sent him to Buchenwald. He turned 16 years old a few days later. He had to feed prisoners, who had gone mad, in a special cement bunker, with a slop bucket and a rubber truncheon. He developed an infection in his jaw and was then released.

When I came to Martinez, I was taken to a Bnai Brith meeting in Pittsburg, by Goodman Bader and who should I meet again, Heinz (Henry) Heiman. Who still lives in Antioch at this time. Later I also met old Mr. Heiman, again at Henry’s house. Small World!!!

Chapter 13: Epilogue

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Material from M. Rosengarten, Themar, Thüringen: My Home Town may be reproduced in part or whole, in any print or electronic format for non-commercial purposes provided that the author, editor, copyright holders, and publisher ( are acknowledged.
© 2011 Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. © Sharon Meen, Vancouver, British Columbia