Sydney remembers horrors of Kristallnacht

Peter Nash speaking at the Kristallnacht Commemoration at the Sydney Jewish Museum last week. Photo: Giselle Haber

A CHILLING projected photograph of Berlin’s Fasenstrasse Synagogue – burnt during Kristallnacht on November 9 and 10, 1938 – formed a powerful backdrop during Peter Nash’s address at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ Kristallnacht commemoration service at the Sydney Jewish Museum last week.

Nash, author of Escape from Berlin, was just three at the time but said his older cousin David recalls watching in shock as smoke emerged from the shule’s ruins.

“In 1991, we came back to Berlin and went to a Jewish community centre in Fasenstrasse to search a list of about 125,000 [Holocaust] victims, and found seven [relatives] on the list,” Nash said.

You could hear a pin drop when Nash showed a copy of an eviction notice his parents received two weeks after Kristallnacht, which quoted a new Nazi residential law that said “Aryans and Jews could no longer live together”.

His parents tried unsuccessfully to apply for asylum to several countries, including Australia, before receiving a telegram from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that advised no entry visa was required at the time to enter Shanghai.

“In April 1939 we left Berlin by train for Genoa and, ironically, boarded a German steamship that arrived three weeks later in Shanghai.

“We were part of up to 18,000 Jews that found refuge there.”

Nash, who arrived in Sydney in 1949, concluded by reading the Passing of the Legacy oath in front of three rows of Holocaust survivors, duly accepted by second generation survivor descendant Susie Bernfield and Alissa Foster (fourth generation).

“Never forget the racial prejudice and discrimination which led to the Shoah,” Nash recited.

Also speaking at the event, human rights lawyer George Newhouse noted, “The Jewish people understand that remembering is not enough – that ‘never again’ also means teaching our children to identify injustice and persecution, and to challenge it, wherever it raises its ugly head.”

Fellow guest speaker Yoni Hochberg – a third generation survivor descendant and volunteer for Stand Up’s Derech Eretz Aboriginal school camp program, agreed.

“Aboriginal people have also suffered genocide, discrimination and racism – and my own heritage requires of me to stand up and help those that are less fortunate,” he said.


A photo of the burnt out interior of Berlin’s Fasenstrasse Synagogue the day after Kristallnacht in 1938.