On Becoming the Enemy | Boston Review

A family of Jewish refugees remembers Berlin before the war.

Source: On Becoming the Enemy | Boston Review

After Kristallnacht, we had been removed permanently from public view, thereby masking our fate from our fellow Germans. Kristallnacht is often represented as a radical break with what came before. In fact it was not. … As my grandmother, Ilse, recounts in her 1957 memoir The Unforgotten, few even in the Jewish community realized what was really occurring.

Between 1936 and Kristallnacht, the German government flooded public spaces with Gestapo agents. In my grandmother’s memoir, she describes the growing familiarity of the German people with seeing agents appear at doorways, in restaurants, asking for documents, looking for enemies of the people where they were rumored to be. It became typical, normal, ordinary, to see such sweeps. At a certain point, people stopped asking when they saw two agents knocking at the apartment next door. Having agents of the government drop by to remove a neighbor was an event that no longer required an explanation.