Kay Kadden

From the Transylvania Times

Woman Determined To Keep 'Crystal Night' Alive - Brevard NC

November 5, 2015 | Vol.129– No.89

Kay Kadden will tell her cousin's story of the infamous "Night of Broken Glass" on Monday at College Walk. (Times photo by Kevin Fuller)

On a small round table, draped with a rose print tablecloth, in a well-lit apartment in Brevard sits a red plastic binder filled with personal stories, photographs, poems - all a remembrance of a life of a Jewish woman who escaped Nazi Germany.

The binder is part of a larger collection, the personal archive of 95-year-old Kay Kadden.

Among the collection of notebooks, binders, photo albums and hand-written letters is a story that Kadden stumbled across many years ago after settling in New York City in 1937, when she was 17 years old, after fleeing Zweibrücken, Germany.

The story is one many may want to forget - but Kadden is determined to keep its memory alive. The story is of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), also known as the "Night of Broken Glass," which occurred on Nov. 9-10, 1938, in Germany.

During this time, across Germany, Jewish people and their property, including businesses, schools, hospitals and cemeteries, were attacked.

More than 1,000 synagogues were burned or damaged and roughly 90 Jews were killed.

"It's important to me to tell as many people as possible," the tiny Jewish woman said, with remnants of a German accent that's faded through the many years since leaving the country.

"They may have heard of the Holocaust - but not a detailed story of Crystal Night," Kadden said, while turning the binder's pages.

On Monday, she will share the story on the anniversary of Crystal Night at College Walk Retirement Community in Brevard, where she now lives.

"I think it will be great," said Kevin Betts, the senior general manager at College Walk. "People need to know this story," he said. "It's fascinating. It should always be out there."

The story tells of Kadden's cousin Anna Baker Bluethe, who came home to find her apartment destroyed by the Gestapo and her father, who was a prominent attorney, arrested.

It is a personal journal of one family's experience during the two dark nights.

"We started to clean up some of the mess," said Bluethe in her letters.

Bluethe, who is dead, like Kadden travelled to the United States to escape persecution.

"Everything stored in the closets and the drawers had been thrown on the floor," Bluethe goes on to say. "Suddenly, a group of Brown Shirts stormed into the apartment, tore out the telephone, threw some of the typewriters through the windows into the street, demolished tables, chairs, anything and everything they could lay their hands on, and disappeared as suddenly they had arrived."

Kadden started her quest to keep the pages of the story she's held on to alive when she decided to read from them during a Friday night congregation at the Jewish Community Center, which meets at a local church. The story fascinated and upsetted the listeners, many of whom had direct descendents who experienced similar fates. Word spread quickly of the tale.

Shortly after sharing the story, Kadden was approached by a local teacher who wanted her to share the story with his students.

East Henderson High School teacher Todd Singer, who at the time was teaching about the Holocaust, asked Kadden to come to the school.

"The whole auditorium was filled with every class," said Kadden, who has dozens of letters from students telling her they found the story meaningful and thanking her for sharing the firsthand account of Crystal Night.

The letters are another chapter in her personal archive.

The account of how Kadden stumbled upon her cousin's letters and other information is a story in of itself.

Kadden had taken a job as a nanny in Manhattan after settling in New York. She met another Jewish woman who had fled Germany, who told her she was translating a first-hand account of Crystal Night from German to English.

Kadden discovered the account was that of her cousin and immediately became interested in the story, eventually dedicating herself to keeping the story alive.

"By the greatest coincidence, I got a hold of it," Kadden said.

The story is a sad one and recalling it is a painful experience.

However, it doesn't stop Kadden from telling it.

Nor does it deny her from staying positive. Every time Kadden tells the story she starts with another piece of her personal archive: a quote from her father, Ludwig Loeb, who escaped Nazi concentration camps while Kadden was settling in America.

The quote reads: "Sadness and happiness are always divided unevenly in life.

"There is no one who has only sorrow or only happiness. One should always search for beautiful moments - light and sun filled days that open mind and the heart. Carry on, never complain and never give up."

Kadden has also taken to heart the words in her cousin's story and the importance of the message: "As tens of thousands have suffered a similar fate, it may appear unnecessary at this point to record the suffering, murder, beating and destruction, which happened to the Jews of Germany

"Yet, I want to leave this account for the generations that come after us. I sincerely hope they will never have to endure a fate like ours."

Kadden will be reading the story in its entirety at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium at College Walk Retirement Community. The reading and presentation are open to the public.