About our Holocaust Torah
Our Holocaust Torah is intentionally in a prominent place in our lobby in front of the sanctuary doors. It sits in a case specially designed for the Torah and the glass panels encasing the Torah is inscribed with words that tell it’s story.
(Facing the Torah-The Panels are followed around the case counter clock-wise)
This ancient scroll is rolled to a very old story…
Remember what Amalek did to you on your way, when you came forth out of Egypt; How he met you on your journey and struck the most vulnerable amongst you, the feeble, the faint, the weary; and he did not fear God.
Therefore it shall be, when Adonai your God has given you rest from all your enemies … you shall blot out Amalek from under heaven, but you shall not forget him.
And to a very recent story…
Remember what the Nazis did to you on your way, when you came forth from Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary…How they met you on the trains, in the ghettos, and in concentration camps, and struck at you through terror and extermination, the feeble, the faint and weary, the innocent, the children, and their enemies not fear God.
Therefore it shall be, when Adonai your God has given you rest from all your enemies, that you, the survivors and all who know them shall blot out the Nazi Amaleks from under heaven; but also that you shall remember the holocaust by constructing memorials and museums, holding observances and telling the story of rescued Torahs.
PANEL #2 THE STORY
The Nazis developed a plan for a “Central Museum of the Defunct Jewish Race.” They began by collecting and cataloging hundreds of thousands of Jewish ritual objects from those they ruthlessly murdered. These possessions stolen from victims of the Holocaust were stored in secret warehouses. After the war, these warehouses were uncovered. One in particular contained 1,564 Torah Scrolls, each with a tag with a number on one side and a Nazi Swastika on the other.
With no Jews remaining alive in many of the communities from which the scrolls were taken, the decision was made on February 7, 1964 to rescue the Torahs and bring them to London. From there they were sent to surviving Jewish communities to be put on permanent display. Our community received Holocaust Scroll No. 1150, taken from the Synagogue in Klatovy in Southwest Bohemia, Czechoslovakia. In the fall of 1942, the Germans deported the 300 Jews of Klatovy. This Torah stands to tell their story so that the world will never forget.
PANEL #3 LIFE BEFORE
The Torah is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.
Jews had lived in the small village of Klatovy since the 14th century. In 1873, the 1,345 Jews living there established a congregation, opened a cemetery, dedicated a synagogue and brought this Torah to Klatovy. The wooden rollers were held in the hands of people who prayed on Shabbat and holidays, and the Torah was held in the arms of young men as they celebrated their Bar Mitzvah. Life around this Torah was joyful and good in Klatovy.
PANEL #4 EARLY ON
It is not enough for a Jew to find joy in the Torah–but the Torah should also find joy in him.
Rabbi Jose Ber Soloveitchik
On the night of November 9, 1938, widespread attacks on Jews, Jewish-owned property, and synagogues occurred throughout Germany and Austria. With many windows broken, that night became known as Kristallnacht, “Night of Broken Glass” Following Kristallnacht, 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to detention camps at Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and Dachau; 815 shops were destroyed; 29 warehouses, 171 dwellings and 191 synagogues were set on fire; 76 synagogues were completely demolished. Jews could be seen running from burning synagogues with Torahs like this one in their arms. As Nazi domination spread, so too did the hatred toward Jews and the enactment of restrictive laws. The Jews of Klatovy still had this Torah, but now they would have to read it secretly.
PANEL #5 GHETTOS
The spirit of Judaism, the light of its Torah, will stand invincible, outlasting all the many nations and their mighty armies.
Kol Omer Kro
Originally, the ghetto was conceived as a way station to the labor and extermination camps. Its purpose was to aid in the control and supervision of Jews by concentrating them in specific areas. It may be assumed that the Germans also hoped that as a result of the harsh conditions a large number of Jews would perish. In 1939, Hitler outlined his plan to contain the Jews in ghettos, “Out with them from all the professions and into the ghetto with them; fence them in somewhere where they can perish as they deserve…” The Jews of Klatovy became more and more “ghettoized.” Faced with hard labor, malnutrition, overcrowding, and substandard sanitary conditions, many perished. Even so, they continued to pray and study from this Torah. Its teachings of hope helped sustain them through the viciousness and brutality they faced.
PANEL #6 CONCENTRATION CAMPS
When the Jew is attacked–he is not to keep the Torah in front of him as a shield–But he is to keep himself as a shield in front of the Torah.
Under the Nazi regime in Germany (1933–45), a system of concentration camps was set up to isolate and intern persons suspected of opposition to the regime. Eventually the camps developed into an unprecedented vast network for the suppression and ultimate extermination of millions of persons of various nationalities and beliefs designated as enemies or so-called “inferior” population groups. Beginning in April 1938 those people the Nazis identified as Jews (not as Communists, Socialists, etc.) were interned in concentration camps for the first time and in 1939, they began to be deported for even the slightest violation. By March 1942, the number of concentration camp detainees rose from 25,000 to 100,000, and in 1944, the number reached one million. Forced labor, disease, extreme brutality and killing were commonplace in the camps. In 1942, the entire Jewish population of Klatovy was deported to a concentration camp. In other communities, the Jews hid or buried their most sacred treasure, their Torah Scrolls. Some even took Torahs or sections of the Torah with them to the camps. However, the Nazis absconded with this Torah from Klatovy.
PANEL #7 EXTERMINATION CAMPS
When a person dies, neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones and pearls accompany him to the grave but only the Torah he studied and his good deeds.
Talmud, Pirke Avot Chap.6
Death Camps were established late in 1941 for the sole purpose of the extermination of “undesirable” populations. Victims were forced to run to the “showers” to the accompaniment of a band playing music. Between 700 to 800 men and women, elderly people, and children were crammed into a chamber measuring 225 sq. ft. Terrible shrieks could be heard from the hermetically sealed chamber when those inside began to suffocate and their lungs burst. Anyone left alive was beaten to death. Their contorted and entangled bodies were separated with axes and sorted, and, after rings and gold teeth were removed and hair was shorn, they were piled in tens for inspection and taken out to be burned. Later, furnaces and cremating pits were constructed. Auschwitz, the largest of all the extermination camps, slaughtered 20,000 victims a day. Among these victims was the entire Jewish population of Klatovy. All that remains today is their Torah.
PANEL #8 LIBERATION AND REBIRTH
The Torah endows to those who fulfill its commandments spiritual strength powerful enough to transform a desert into an inhabited land and a wilderness into a fruitful garden.
Rabbi Shlomo Zevin, Hamoadim B’halakha
This Torah scroll stands as a visible sign of the liberation and rebirth of the Jewish people after the Holocaust. The vitality of Jewish communities around the world, including our own, and the creation of the State of Israel are living examples that Amalek has been defeated once again. This Torah is housed in this living, breathing, and vibrant congregation as a constant reminder that the people of Klatovy live on and as a testimonial that we will never forget.
To the Beerman family, Helen z”l , Janice and Michael z”l who supported the bringing of this
Holocaust Torah to CLJ in memory Of Mathias Beerman.
To the Jeffrey and Maryann Robin for their generous support of the building of this beautiful home for our Holocaust Torah which was dedicated April 25, 2003:
This rescued Holocaust Torah is displayed in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of Zachary D. Robin (August 4, 2001) and also in remembrance of the survivors and victims of the Holocaust, as well as the Righteous non-Jews who risked their own lives to save Jews. Zachary’s extended Jewish family traces its roots to the Ukraine and Belarus regions. One city, Brest-Litovsk, was the family home of Zachary’s great-grandfather; its nearly 1,000 years of Jewish history was wiped out during the Nazi reign of terror. Part of Zachary’s extended family involves non-Jews from Hungary. For his Mitzvah project, Zachary honored the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, and particularly Mr. Giorgio Perlasca, a Hungarian non-Jew who personally saved 3,500 Hungarian Jews.
To Ava Maxwell, Arts and Beautification Chair, for her dedication to this project and for her great artistic sense and eye.
To Tess Wise, Chair of the Board and the dedicated staff of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida for their assistance and loaning of historical artifacts that will reside in the case.
To Jeff Abraham and Flip Tetlow for the design and construction of this magnificent case.
To Rabbi Steven Engel for the original concept of the case and for writing the story for it.
To the members of Congregation of Reform Judaism who make possible memorable opportunities like this and who through their dedication and love of Judaism are guarantors of our survival.
To the people of Klatovy who we pray will rest in peace knowing that this Torah is housed in this living, breathing, and vibrant congregation as a constant reminder that they, the people of Klatovy and their Judaism, will live on in our minds and hearts.
Zichronam Livracha-May their memories be for blessing