When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Friedrich and Pauline Kellner, known to their neighbors as longtime opponents of the Nazis, left Mainz for the small town of Laubach, hoping to avoid trouble with the new government. Friedrich found work there as the manager of a courthouse, which also afforded him some small amount of protection. The Kellners’ grandson, Robert Scott Kellner, describes how they helped a Jewish family in the town:
As worried Jews sought to leave Germany, a Jewish woman in Laubach, Hulda Heynemann, approached Pauline for help. The police had brought false charges against her son-in-law, Julius Abt, to confiscate his property. Friedrich . . . and Pauline helped Abt get to the port in Hamburg to leave for America. The Heynemanns’ daughter, Lucie, expecting a child, remained behind until she gave birth. The Kellners helped mother and infant son get away as well. They tried to convince Lucie’s parents to leave with her, but the Heynemann family had been in Laubach for generations, and the old couple felt certain their neighbors would do them no harm. . . .
The Heynemanns made a mistake trusting their neighbors. On the moonlit night of November 9, 1938, during an orchestrated nationwide frenzy of religious and racial hatred [that came to be known as Kristallnacht], Friedrich and Pauline Kellner tried vainly to halt the mob seeking to attack the town’s Jews. The judge who presided over the court, Ludwig Schmitt, refused Friedrich’s request to bring the Jewish families into the courthouse for protection. . . .
Friedrich wanted to press charges against the leaders of the stormtroopers [who led the assault], bringing his and Pauline’s written testimony to Judge Schmitt. The judge angrily denounced him and said [that the leader of the local Nazi women’s group] had demanded an investigation into Pauline’s ancestry to see if she had Jews in her family—nothing else could explain why the wife of a justice official sent her son to America to avoid army service, did not cooperate with the women’s group, and helped Jews. “And we have questions about you, too,” the judge said ominously to Friedrich, telling him the matter was already in the hands of the state authorities in Darmstadt.