NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Tuesday night marked 72 years since the horror of Kristallnacht or “night of broken glass.” German Jews were systematically rounded up and sent to be tortured and killed in concentration camps.
For Holocaust survivor Ernest Michel, the images of Kristallnacht are still all too vivid. His family and friends were killed that night in 1938 and shipped to Auschwitz. Michel also expected to die, but he didn’t, CBS 2’s Rob Morrison reported.
“I survived by a miracle,” Michel said.
Michel said his job — falsifying death certificates — kept him alive. The Nazis did not want a record of their systematic executions and forced him to invent causes of death. He remembers two in particular — “weak of body” and “heart attack.”
“I had to write nobody died of being gassed in Auschwitz,” Michel recounted.
Michel was chosen for the job by a fellow prisoner — not a Jew but a Communist — who noticed his fine penmanship. Michel credits that man with saving his life.
“He took me to the next room and said ‘ look you can stay here overnight.’ Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of you. You won’t be sent up the chimney,” Michel said.
Decades later, there was another extraordinary twist to Michel’s story when the great nephew of the man who saved him reached out after reading his memoirs and recognizing the story of his uncle.
Now bonded, Dr. Peter Kurz — the Mayor of Mannheim, Germany — and Michel share a message of harmony.
Mannheim was the very city where Michel experienced Kristallnacht. And today, the men say their friendship is proof that good can come from evil.