Las Vegas-area Kristallnacht survivors to share stories

Joseph Frank was about a year old the night Nazi troops raided his home and detained his father as part of Kristallnacht, a two-day massacre throughout Germany in which about 100 Jews were killed and their communities were left in ruins.

“They smashed everything to pieces,” said Frank, 81, of Henderson. “My mother told me they turned my carriage upside down and threw me out. … As they were breaking up everything, my mother noticed one of them. They were friends before, and it turned out he was the head of that SS force. When he recognized her, my mother said to him, ‘How could you be doing this to us?’ ”

About 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses and hundreds of Jewish synagogues, schools, homes and even graveyards were vandalized Nov. 10, 1938. The coordinated raid, also known as the “Night of Broken Glass,” reflected the Nazis’ escalation from exclusionary policies to violence targeting Jews.

Frank will be in the crowd as several other Las Vegas-area Kristallnacht survivors tell their stories at 2 p.m. Sunday at Temple Beth Sholom in Summerlin. The hourlong talk, which was planned to coincide with the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, comes as the Jewish community mourns the slayings of 11 people Oct. 27 at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

‘Nowhere to go’

German SS troops arrested about 30,000 Jewish men, including Frank’s father, and sent them to concentration camps. Frank is one of hundreds of children who were left abandoned.

“The only way to get out was if somebody, a relative of yours, could get you a visa to leave Germany,” said Frank, whose family was living in Edelfingen, about 80 miles southeast of Frankfurt. “The problem was, there was nowhere to go because no other country wanted to let us in. Luckily, my mother had a brother in London that was willing to put up a bond. He would vouch for us so we wouldn’t be a ‘burden on English government.’ He sent us a visa. Then they let my father leave, and we got on a train to London.”

In March 1940, Frank and his family migrated to the United States. His mother had another brother in New York who vouched for them. Frank moved to the Las Vegas Valley in 2005.

Alexander Kuechel, 94, was 14 when his father was taken by Nazi soldiers during Kristallnacht. They were reunited a year later and moved to Krakow, Poland, with his mother. Two years later, they were living in Chrzanow, about 30 miles east of Krakow, when Kuechel was picked up by the police and sent to a concentration camp. His parents were sent shortly afterward to Auschwitz, where they were killed. He was shuffled among seven concentration camps in Poland at 17, he said.

“We were in no man’s land in Germany,” said Kuechel, who now lives in Summerlin. “There were hundreds of concentration camps. It was almost impossible to escape. Germans would take you right away and denounce you and shoot you on the spot. Escaping was unheard of. Anyone who tried was killed. You had to have family in another country vouching for you. My sister tried with her husband and their 2-month-old. They gassed all three of them.”

Kuechel left Germany on Dec. 17, 1949, four years after World War II ended. He was 26. He moved to New York and went to night school. A year later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he got his diploma at Dorsey High School while working at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Kuechel worked in real estate for about 15 years and moved to the Las Vegas area in 1996 with his wife, Lilo, after retiring. She’s also a Kristallnacht survivor.

‘Not just Jewish history’

“This is a very important aspect of human history,” said Esther Finder, 65, of Henderson, organizer of Saturday’s event and president of the Holocaust Survivors of Southern Nevada. “It’s not just Jewish history. It’s human history. There are so many things we are seeing today that sadly go back to what was going on in Germany. It starts small. It doesn’t start with killing people. It didn’t start with gas chambers. That’s just how it ended.”

Finder, also the president of Generations of the Shoah-Nevada, is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She became president of Holocaust Survivors of Southern Nevada in 2016 and founded Generations of the Shoah about eight years ago. As part of her mission, she organizes events to help keep Holocaust survivors’ legacy alive as their numbers in the Las Vegas area dwindle. She estimated that 100 remain in the region.

“I remember my mother telling me a story once,” Finder said. “She needed salt or sugar for her mother, and she went to a neighbor that she felt very close to. My family is from Poland. The Polish woman turned her away and told her, ‘Don’t come back again.’ As a child, the lady used to bribe my mother with a ‘candy for a kiss.’ That’s how close they’d been. But in Poland, if you were caught helping a Jew, not only would you be killed, but your whole family could be killed.”

Contact Mia Sims at Follow @miasims___ on Twitter.

Local Videos
Library director talks about library as community center
Ron Heezen discusses his hopes for the new East Las Vegas Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Property Brothers visit Michael’s in Las Vegas Valley
Twin brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott are the hosts of Property Brothers, the hit HGTV show where they help couples find fixer-uppers and transform them into dream homes. In 2018, the brothers collaborated with Michael's on their first custom framing program. Today they're releasing new frames into that collection that range from natural to bright looking. Jonathan and Drew discuss their brand and why frames was something they wanted to pursue. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 traffic jam
A semitrailer stopped in the middle of Interstate 15 near Charleston Boulevard has slowed traffic in central Las Vegas Wednesday morning, April 17, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rainy Tuesday
The Las Vegas Valley saw cooler temperatures and rain Tuesday afternoon. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Tiger Woods Bettor Collects
James Adducci bet $85k on Tiger Woods to win the Masters. He collected his $1.19M from William Hill sports bet in the SLS today. (Mat Luschek /Review-Journal)
Endangered frogs released at Springs Preserve
Dozens of endangered Relic Leopard Frogs were released at the Cotton Grove inside Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Thursday, April 11, 2019
Vintage World War II aircraft arrive at Henderson Executive Airport
The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom tour comes to Henderson Executive Airport with a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang and a P-40 Warhawk. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring Pearl Harbor veteran
Ed Hall, a Pearl Harbor veteran in Las Vegas, is honored with Quilt of Valor during an event in a Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Anthropology professors excavate Maya ruin site of Caracol, Belize for 36 years
The husband-and-wife team of UNLV anthropologists has spent several months a year at the remote site of Caracol in the jungles of Belize, excavating ruins and uncovering secrets from the region’s once-dominant civilization. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Things to remember when adopting a rabbit this Easter season
As Easter and spring time approach, some people may be tempted to adopt a rabbit for the holiday. But like adopting any animal, it is important to be responsible and know what a rabbit requires to be a happy, healthy pet. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bike Giveaway in Las Vegas - Piero’s Italian Cuisine
Evan Glusman of Piero’s Italian Cuisine hosted a party in the restaurant’s parking lot to distribute over 150 bikes to local kids. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Charleston/I-15 ramp configuration
The new Interstate 15/ Charleston Boulevard ramp configuration was unveiled Tuesday morning. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Northwest Vegas farm's abandoned pig problem
Someone abandoned a several hundred pound pig at Sharon Linsenbardt's farm. Her farm is a rescue for animals, but she doesn't have room or resources to take on another such creature, so she's asking the community for help. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Chalk Talk: Black Student Union
Students talk about the Black Student Union in the latest episode of Chalk Talk. (Angus Kelly and Amelia Pak-Harvey/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Individuals with Parkinson's participate in dance class
Pamela Lappen leads a dance class for individuals with Parkinson's Disease at the Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, Thursday, March 28, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Review-Journal
Animal Foundation Preps Pups For Best In Show
The Las Vegas Animal Foundation is preparing its prime pups for their 16th annual Best in Show event, which takes place at the end of April. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Dog Yoga At Hydrant Club
The Hydrant Club in downtown Las Vegas, is a social club for dogs and their people. Recently the club started hosting dog yoga. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Butterflies At The Springs Preserve
The butterfly habitat is now open at the Springs Preserve. Learn about butterflies and take in the peaceful surroundings. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Conservatory's spring display has a Japanese theme
The Bellagio's conservatory is hosting around 65,000 flowers, to form a Japanese theme this spring. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life Videos
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Home Front Page Footer Listing