The November Pogrom, 9-10 November 1938


The Roberg Family's Mezuzah

Alexander-Alfred and Sophie (Zofi) Roberg lived in Lemförde, Germany with their sons Heinz-Yaakov (b. 1919) and Gunther-Eliezer (b. 1921). Alexander was a butcher, and the family lived comfortably.

In 1928, they moved to Hanover and from there to Diepholz. Alexander developed new meat-preservation methods, and used to give lectures on the subject. In 1932, Alexander died of cancer, and the family's financial situation deteriorated. Sophie's parents, Emil and Kathchen Philips moved from Lemförde to Diepholz in order to live with Sophie and the boys. Kathchen passed away in 1937.

Heinz studied at the Jewish Teachers Seminary in Würzburg.  Eliezer studied in Diepholz for 8 years, and in 1935, he moved to Hanover to study baking, living in the baker's home. Approximately 2 weeks before Kristallnacht, the bakery owner died.  His wife sold the business to a German who agreed to continue employing Eliezer as long as Jews would continue to buy bread and challot there.  Eliezer used to make home deliveries of the baked goods to customers. 

On Kristallnacht, the Roberg family home in Diepholz was damaged and its contents destroyed.  That same night, a group of SA militiamen stormed the old building of the Teachers Seminary in Würzburg. They shook the students out of their beds and tortured them. Egged on by many of the local inhabitants, the SA proceeded to gut the building, destroying whatever utensils and furnishings they could find, unhinging the doors, and breaking the windows. In light of the violence one of the students called the police, who arrived on the scene only to arrest the older students. This act was cheered by the crowd. Heinz Roberg was imprisoned that night and sent from jail to Dachau.  Eliezer, who was in Hanover at the time, witnessed the burning of the great synagogue in the city and the shattering of Jewish shop windows.  This was followed by the arrest of Jews of Hanover both randomly in the streets and according to lists. Reaching the bakery, the police sought to arrest Eliezer. Eliezer managed to escape and returned home to Diepholz that month.  A few weeks later, he was joined by Heinz.

Heinz, who was affiliated with "Bachad" (Brit Halutzim Datiyim - Union of Religious Pioneers.), organized a place for himself and his brother in the Hachshara (pioneer training) program, so that they would be able to leave Germany and immigrate to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine).  Eliezer worked for a farmer in Liback and later in the Hachshara in Steckelsdorf, where his brother was a counselor.  There they were both imbued with Zionist ideals and the pioneering spirit of agricultural settlement.  Before leaving Germany in August 1940, Eliezer returned to Diepholz to part with his mother and grandfather, in the hope that they would eventually follow.

Eliezer reached Haifa on 1 November 1940.  His boat was intercepted by the British, and after three weeks' detention, the immigrants were boarded onto the "Patria", bound for a detention camp in Mauritius.  The Haganah booby-trapped the boat, intending to cause mild damage and thus delay the deportation, but the boat sank on 25 November.  Some 250 passengers drowned, including several of Eliezer's friends. Eliezer himself managed to swim to shore and survived.

Eliezer settled in Kibbutz Tirat Zvi, and then moved to Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzhak in the Negev.  He was alone, and missed his family greatly.  The last sign of life from his family reached him in November 1941, via Red Cross telegrams.  He was later informed that his mother had been sent to the Warsaw ghetto.  After hearing about the ghetto's liquidation, he understood that his family would not be returning.
In March 1942, Sophie was sent to the Warsaw ghetto, and in July 1942, her father, Emil Philips, was sent to Terezin.  Both of them were murdered in the Holocaust, as was Heinz.  It is not clear if Heinz was with his mother in the Warsaw ghetto or if he was sent with fellow members of the Hachshara in Steckeldorf to Hamburg, and from there to the Minsk ghetto.

Eliezer moved to Haifa. In 1950 he married Miriam, and they had two children: Ilan-Alexander and Dalia-Sophie. Eliezer worked at the Katz bakery in Haifa for 27 years, until it closed down. 

In 1955, Eliezer Roberg submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of his mother Sophie, his brother Heinz-Yaakov, his grandfather Emil Philips and other relatives.  In 2010, he donated the mezuzah that was affixed to the doorpost of his family home in Diepholz, and family photographs to Yad Vashem for posterity.  A German  neighbor took the mezuzah after Kristallnacht, 9-10 November 1938, when the Germans destroyed the Roberg family home in Diepholz.  The neighbor, who came looking for valuables amongst the rubble, found the mezuzah and kept it.  A few years later, a Jew who had immigrated to Chile and knew the Roberg family visited Diepholz.  The neighbor gave him the mezuzah, and he brought it to Eliezer Roberg when he came to Israel.