November 10, l938: Kristallnacht. Flames engulfed the synagogues in every city in Germany. Late that night, Nazis burst into the apartment in Nordhausen where my parents had fled after their house and factory at the foothills of the Harz Mountains were confiscated. The invaders systematically tossed everything they could lift out the windows. The sound of the shattering fur­nishings on the pavement below was deafening. Citizens who had congregated on the sidewalk quickly appropriated the few things that did not break.

In later years, my mother spoke to me often of that night, always with pain.

My father was arrested, handcuffed, and shoved out the door to the truck waiting on the street. Many Jewish men in pajamas were already loaded into the open truck bed. Only the warmth of the tightly squeezed, adjacent bodies kept them from freezing in the cold November night. They were on their way to a concen­tration camp.

More from Renate G. Justin, MD

What I Have to Tell: A Memoir

Available at

Tattered Cover, Firehouse Books, Boulder Books, Denver Book Bar