Survivors to recount Kristallnacht at QCC

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A Flushing couple who escaped the Holocaust when they were children will revisit their stories about Kristallnacht at a Queensborough Community College event that commemorates the 70th anniversary of the historic night.

Erich Heymann, 88, and Claire Heymann, 84, will each tell their stories of how they witnessed Kristallnacht, which means “night of broken glass,” during which 191 synagogues and 815 Jewish−owned shops throughout Germany were destroyed on Nov. 9−10, 1938.

The couple, who later met in the United States, both lost most of their families during the Holocaust.

“My wife had a family of seven — her parents, four girls and one boy,” Erich Heymann said. “She never saw them again.”

On the morning of Nov. 9, 1938, Erich Heymann, who was 18 at the time, said he rode his bicycle to the factory where he worked. He said he was the only Jew who worked at the factory, but his co−workers did not turn him over to the Nazis.

“Afterward, I got a call from the synagogue my family attended,” he said. “It was burned down, it was smoldering. We tried to salvage some of the Torahs.”

He said the Nazis then forced Jews to clean up the damage caused on Kristallnacht and that insurance proceeds went to the state.

Erich Heymann said he fled to South America, but his parents were murdered by the Nazis.

He said his wife, who was 14 at the time, was arrested along with her family during the evening of Kristallnacht. He said the family’s four girls were taken in their nightgowns and held overnight at a jail.

Claire Heymann was one of eight girls in a group of 120 who survived a slave labor camp in Berlin, Eric Heymann said.

Only Claire Heymann and one of her sisters lived through the Holocaust, her husband said.

Alice Doyle, a Queensborough spokeswoman, said the school’s Kristallnacht event Nov. 10 will feature several speakers, including the Heymanns and Borough President Helen Marshall.

“This will be poignant because it may be the last time for many of the people there to commemorate the event,” Doyle said.

The event, which will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., will be held at the college’s student union building at 222−05 56th Ave. in Bayside. Renowned cantor Moti Fuchs will also sing at the event.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:37 pm, October 10, 2011
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