We all know what World War II was one of the biggest “plagues” in mankind history and we have also heard about the Holocaust, which is directly related to WWII and its unfolding. The Holocaust or the Shoah (the catastrophe) was a genocide that caused the death of around six million European Jews. They were killed by Adolf Hitler’s regime, during the Nazi Germany period related to WWII.
Not only the Jews were targeted by the Nazi regime, but also other people which were judged by their biological factors or ethnic origins (such as Slavs or Gypsies). Also, the ones considered mentally or physically disabled were considered surplus.
Among many dark episodes coming from the Holocaust, we want to highlight the Kristallnacht or “The Crystal Night”, because it is the background of our today story.
The Crystal Night was a pogrom against Jews, which took place in the Nazi Germany, between 9 and 10 November 1938. The operation was carried by German SA troops (literally “The Storm Detachment”, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party) and by German civilians. The “Crystal Night” name comes from the streets covered in broken glass coming from the smashed windows of the Jewish-owned stores or synagogues.
The events related to the “Crystal Night” (that happened in the Free City of Danzig) caused the death of around 100 people, meaning individuals who were directly attacked or executed during the pogrom. If we take into account also the deaths resulted after the immediate persecution, the numbers will rise considerably. We must have in mind that the “Crystal Night” meant much more. Many died from post-arrest maltreatment, others were simply murdered in cold blood, much committed suicide and many others ended in Nazi concentration camps. In this context many family tragedies happened: children separated from their parents, or parents aware that most likely they won’t see their children again.
That was also the situation of the Shapiro family, who woke up in the middle of the “Crystal Night” pogrom, without knowing what exactly was happening or what they had to do. Jacob Shapiro immediately knew that they had to save his three children, the two sisters Miriam and Edith and their brother Otto. Miriam was 4 years old and the youngest of the siblings. She managed to escape the Nazi raid on their home by hiding under the bed in her parents’ room.
Miriam’s life radically changed in very short time. She remained totally alone, without any information related to her parents or siblings. Eventually, she has been taken care of by the Flux family, who helped many Jewish orphans, sheltering them and avoiding their capture with all sorts of risks. The Flux family managed to take Miriam with them, outside Germany, more exactly in Manchester, England, where she lived with them.
No need to say that Miriam’s biggest life’s goal was related to know what happened with her parents and siblings. During the following years, she learned that her mother died in the Lodz Jewish ghetto, while Jacob, her father, died while incarcerated at Dachau. Jacob died three weeks before the concentration camp was liberated by US troops.
Unfortunately for Miriam, the fate of her parents was now clear. What remained unclear, and made her hope for decades, was the possibility to find out something related to her two siblings, Edith and Otto, who might have been alive.
For many years, Miriam searched everywhere with the hope that, at some point, something will come out, at least to confirm what happened to them. When Miriam reached the age of 80, finally something occurred. Among the thousands of pictures displayed within the Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam, she was able to spot a picture of a twelve-year boy, and that boy was her brother, Otto.
Related to Otto’s picture, there was a death certificate attesting that he died in a monastery outside London, a place that functioned as a school for orphans. Somehow happy to find out that her brother did not die in the concentration camps, Miriam managed to complete her story with the last missing piece, her brother’s grave.
Miriam went to her brother’s grave accompanied by her two daughters. Their visit to the Jewish cemetery located in a London suburb was even more touchy, considering that the one who made all that possible was a man named Joey Flux, who was the son of the ones who took care of Miriam after the “Crystal Night”.
Miriam placed four stones on her brother’s grave, following a Jewish custom in which each stone represented one family member. Having her daughters and Joey at her side, she felt that she “had the right to close the circle and mourn the whole family” as she stated.
Finally, Miriam was able to find out the truth, even if that wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. Anyway, she always was pretty sure that none of her relatives escaped the pogrom, so finding out that at least her brother managed to escape, was already something. She went through many terrible experiences, but by remaining alive she thought she had a mission, to carry on the story for the future generations.
Miriam always felt that the best way to honor the ones who lost their lives in the holocaust, was to stay strong without letting herself forget, but at the same time live with the memories, trying to reach a form of happiness, an inner peace.