AUGUSTA — When the hammer struck the pane of glass, the crowd gathered Friday at the Michael Klahr Center at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center recoiled in their seats.

The glass breaking was part of a remembrance organized for the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when the widespread and unchecked persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany — which included Austria and the Sudetenland — turned violent.

“So shocking. Visceral,” said Barbara Leopold, of Wilton, “even though you knew it was going to happen. There’s probably layers of meaning in that. It’s still so shocking.”

The broken glass, she said, is a metaphor of the Jewish community that was destroyed during World War II, and the survivors are like the shards of glass that sprayed out across the world to start again.

The breaking of the glass came at the end of a brief remembrance at the University of Maine at Augusta, during which Edith Lucas Pagelson and Charles Rotmil, both survivors of the Holocaust, spoke to about 80 people about their recollections of that night when in a wave of orchestrated violence, synagogues and Jewish-owned stores and buildings were ransacked and burned on Nov. 9-10, 1938.

“At that time, I was 12 years old,” Pagelson said.

Jewish children already had been banned from the public school, and they attended their own school in the synagogue.

On the morning of Nov. 10, she was getting ready to go to school in her family’s home in the city of Worms when her father returned home from the synagogue, where he had gone to say prayers for his late parents. He said told her there would be no school that day because the synagogue had been burned.

She said she knew then her world had changed.

Here at MaineToday Media we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion.

To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use. Click here to flag and report a comment that violates our terms of use.