Temple Beth Israel to host Kristallnacht event

Temple Beth Israel to host Kristallnacht event
Alex Konstantyn. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Feldman)

Alex Konstantyn, who spent his childhood roaming the countryside in Poland to escape the Nazis, will speak about his experience at Temple Beth Israel next month.

The free event, which will be held at the synagogue on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m., is being held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The “Night of Broken Glass” took place in 1938, when thousands of Jews in Germany were arrested, dozens were killed and Jewish-owned properties were destroyed.

Konstantyn does not remember Kristallnacht — he was only a year old and was living in the Polish town of Varenz when it happened. But he does have a harrowing story about surviving the Holocaust as a small child.

According to a 2015 interview Konstantyn gave with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., he said he belonged to the only Jewish family in the village. German troops invaded Poland in 1939, but he said that his village remained mostly untouched until 1941. As German troops were heading north to invade the Soviet Union, he said Jewish refugees warned his family that the Nazi secret police, or SS, was rounding up Jews, putting them on trucks and transporting them, never to be heard from again.

Konstantyn’s family fled the village in 1942. The family moved around Poland, sleeping in barns and holes in the ground and relying on the charity of strangers. Poland was liberated by the Soviet Union in 1945, but Konstantyn said during his interview that adjusting to post-war life in Poland was difficult. Eventually, his family moved to Israel, where he served in the Israeli Army. He came to the United States in the 1960s and served as the principal of the East Meadow Jewish Center religious school for 26 years.

Hannah Brooks will perform a piece beforehand on violin; refreshments will be provided.

Bob Epstein, who helped to organize the event, said Konstantyn will present a slideshow of family photos.

I’ve heard him speak before. I saw him up in the Bronx last year, and so I asked him to come to Temple Beth Israel because I was really impressed,” Epstein said. 

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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