One Of The Last Eyewitnesses To Kristallnacht: Remembering Egon Salmon
Updated: Jan 27
The Staten Island Holocaust Center mourns the passing of one of the last eyewitnesses to Kristallnacht, Egon J. Salmon (June 4, 1924-Sept. 7, 2022). His courage, testimony and commitment to Holocaust remembrance has transformed and continues to impact the lives of thousands of youth. His funeral will be held this Sunday, 10am, at Menorah Chapels, Richmond Avenue, Staten Island, New York. Burial will follow at United Hebrew Cemetery, Arthur Kill Road. Shiva details will be forthcoming.
Only nine years old when Hitler came to power, Egon faced rising anti-Semitism in his hometown of Rheydt, Germany (near Dusseldorf). He was no longer welcome in restaurants and at homes of his neighbors. On Kristallnacht--the “Night of Broken Glass”, November 9th 1938, the S.S. took Egon’s father Paul to Dachau Concentration Camp. He was released a few weeks later on condition that he leave Germany. Paul came to the U.S. with a temporary Business Visa to try to procure visas for the family and arranged to wait in Cuba until they could be granted.
Shortly before his 15th birthday, Egon set sail on the liner the S.S. St. Louis with his mother Erna and sister Edith. When Cuba and the U.S. turned the refugees away, this “voyage of the damned” was sent back to Nazi Germany. At the last moment, they found haven in Belgium for a year. As Egon explained: “Our family’s most tragic moment came when the ship was called back to Hamburg. I spent my 15th birthday, June 4th, on my return trip to Europe, looking at the skyline and lights of Miami Beach. Thankfully we were diverted from Nazi hands three days before landing in Germany. Four countries in Europe accepted the refugees: England, France, Belgium and Holland. The three of us landed in Belgium.” Two weeks before the Nazi invasion of Belgium, on April 25, 1940, Paul, Erna, Edith and Egon Salmon joined other German-Jewish refugees in Staten Island.
While a student at New Dorp High School, Egon was drafted into the U.S. army. As soon as he graduated, he served in the Italian Campaign in three major battles, earning several medals. “Off I went to North Africa and then to Naples,” Egon told the students of New Dorp when he returned in 2019; “We were in wine country. The Germans were at the top of the mountains and we were at the bottom, shooting at each other. We were in the front lines. I was in the infantry. As the army of occupation, we were taking prisoners and I spoke to them in German. I spoke the language of the enemy.”
In 1956, he established a real estate firm on Staten Island that continues to thrive. The Salmon family has contributed to Jewish life and the broader community in America. Egon and his family received the most prestigious award of the Joan and Alan Bernikow Jewish Community Center on Staten Island, the Allan Weissglass Distinguished Leadership Award, in 2009.
We have many holocaust survivors among our neighbors on Staten Island and it is our duty to preserve their histories. We need to teach the next generation as a lesson on the dangers of intolerance and antisemitism.”
In 2019, the Staten Island Advance’s videographer Shira Stoll captured Egon J. Salmon’s profile in a poignant photo (below) and video series “Where Life Leads You” which won a NY Amy . Stoll's biography of Salmon was reprinted not only on silive.com but in The Jerusalem Post and other international media outlets.
Egon is survived by his wife, Marie (Schiff) Salmon, two sons Henry (Linda) and Jon (Meryl), his sister Edith (Salmon) Smith; six grandchildren twins Barie Miller MD (David) and Tracy Svetcov MD (Spencer), Scott Salmon (Remy), Matthew Salmon (Honey), Abbey Salmon and Katie Hartley (Bernard) and seven great-grandchildren Isaac, Esther, Joey, Linus and Lynnie Salmon, Jack Hartley, and Lara Svetcov.