|Jewish survivor of 'Kristallnacht Program' to speak Oct. 29|
As the world prepares to observe 70 years since the horrific events of the "Kristallnacht program" -- night of broken glass -- Nov. 9-10, 1938, in Germany and other Nazi-controlled lands, the University of North Dakota is playing host to a Jewish survivor of that infamous time.
Fred Lyon, a native of Berlin, Germany, who was persecuted by Nazis and eventually deported to America along with his family, will be a featured guest speaker at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, in the Fred Orth Lecture Bowl, Memorial Union. He will present his life story, including first-hand accounts of Kristallnacht, the single night in which Jewish-owned businesses were ransacked, nearly 100 Jews were killed, and thousands more were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
Lyon is a retired Minneapolis obstetrician and gynecologist. He will be a guest of the Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies.
Lyon was 10 years old during Kristallnacht. He and his family -- mother, father, sister and aunt -- lived in an affluent Jewish community of the Wilmersdorf section of Berlin. His mother ran an upscale dress shop and his father traveled to European capitals to sell the dresses.
Even before Kristallnacht, Nazi-inspired vandals would smash the Lyon's storefront glass, as well as those of other Jewish-owned businesses, night after night, to the point that insurance companies refused to reimburse the cost of installing new glass.
Lyon said he was routinely tormented for being Jewish, even by the likes of his public school teacher, who wore the Nazi swastika on his arm. Lyon relays how one day the teacher summoned him to the head of the class and ordered him to pull down his pants and underwear so the teacher could explain how to identify a Jew.
"I picked up my books and left the school never to return," Lyon says.
Lyon has vivid memories of Kristallnacht in Berlin, when his father abruptly woke him in the middle of the night and whisked him to the nearby synagogue to preserve hand-written texts of the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah. Upon exiting the synagogue, young Lyon was introduced to Nazism up close and personal.
"We left the main sanctuary and were met by an angry, scowling man wearing the brown uniform of the "Sturmabteilung" (storm troopers)," Lyon said. "On his upper left arm I saw prominently the swastika insignia of the Nazi party. As we left the synagogue, other Nazis appeared. They were belligerent, furious, loud and abusive. They promptly ripped the Torahs out of our hands. In the streets I saw Nazis throw prayer books and Jewish prayer shawls onto a huge bonfire.
"I turned around and saw the synagogue was on fire. My view was met by ordinary Germans gathered around the bonfire and eagerly observing the flames. There seemed to be much joy and jubilation."
Following Kristallnacht, Lyon's father eventually was arrested and was sent to a concentration campus for about a year. After paying enough bribery money, he was released on the condition that he and his family would leave Germany never to return. They left for Holland and then on to Great Britain, where they waited to cross to the United States.
Lyon's family ultimately settled in the Minneapolis area.
"I shall never forget Kristallnacht. It was the first, but not the last time I was witness to the brutality of Nazi Germany," Lyon said."My family was expelled from the country of our birth because we were Jews. I am eternally grateful that I and my family did not join our relatives in the extermination camps and ovens of Eastern Europe.