Then, in the afternoon, they all sat on a small grassy bank on the lake shore, in the sun, and Dr. Bilfinger told the story. He had been in Swabia, on an old estate he would one day inherit, near Künzlingen, visiting his uncle, Senate President von Daffner. On March 25, he had travelled to the village of Künzlingen to withdraw money from the bank. He had watched as national troops, led by Standartenführer Klein from Heilbronn, occupied the village, surrounded the synagogue, and interrupted the service – it was a Saturday. They drove the men out of the synagogue and locked the women up in there, without telling them what was going to happen to the men. They took the men to the town hall and searched them “for weapons”. Why the men should have taken weapons along to the Saturday service at the synagogue, remained a mystery. As always, each individual was beaten with steel rods and rubber billy clubs, so that most looked wretched when they left the town hall. One seventy-year-old, a certain Berg, died the same day; of a heart attack, it was later claimed. The mayor advised the Jews, who were, for the most part, very popular, to leave Künzlingen at once, he was unable to guarantee their safety. But only a few were able to follow his advice, most were confined to their beds.
He, Bilfinger, had been disturbed by what had happened, and, accompanied by his uncle, Herr von Daffner, he had travelled to the state capital, Stuttgart, and there presented himself to the deputy minister of police. He, a certain Dr. Dill, immediately telephoned the mayor of Künzlingen. Squirming, the mayor admitted what had occurred, and denied it. The nationalists, he claimed, had issued a threat: anyone who let something slip about the abuse would bite the dust. To get a clear picture, the minister dispatched the Stuttgart homicide squad to Künzlingen, led by deputy police commissioners Weizenäcker and Geissler. This commission established that Bilfinger’s report fell far short of the truth. But the sole consequence of the investigation was that one of the nationalists was held in custody for four days, and Standartenführer Klein from Heilbronn was punished by being transferred to another Standarte. The leading Stuttgart newspaper reported the goings-on as follows: “Near Mergentheim, a number of residents were examined for weapons. During the search, some unacceptable instances of mistreatment are said to have occurred, as a result of which one of the investigators was arrested.”
He was a lawyer, continued Bilfinger, a trained, dedicated lawyer, and he had been irritated that actions which so obviously contravene clear sections of the Reich penal code were not to be punished. He had investigated the area between Mergentheim, Rothenburg and Crailsheim in more detail. Gathering authentic material was not easy, because the abused were seriously intimidated, some terrified and close to losing their minds. Threats had been made against them, as well as their wives and children: if they uttered even a peep, scores would be settled. Now, these people would not allow anyone near them, they refused with distraught looks to make any statement at all. Nevertheless, he had had sight of wounded people, even been able to question them, he had spoken to credible eye witnesses, state police officials, the physicians of the abused, had seen photographs. This much was certain: public order has suffered disruption in this area, organized pogroms have taken place, the elements of an offense of breach of the peace have undoubtedly been established.
Lion Feuchtwanger, Geschwister Oppermann, Roman
© Aufbau Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin 1956, 2008
Foto: © Jüdisches Museum Creglingen, Fotograf: Oleg Kuchar