Czech Holocaust Torah #611
History of the Rescued Czech Scrolls
On May 21, 2007, the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center became the recipient of a Pre-War Czechoslovakian Torah Scroll #611 that was rescued from the Holocaust, it along with hundreds of other Scrolls were found stored in a synagogue in the suburb of Michle in Prague. For well over a year we have tirelessly petitioned the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London for the opportunity to adopt one of these Sacred Torahs, as a symbol of our steadfast commitment to "Never Forget the Horrors of the Holocaust". Our Torah is encased in a protective custom leucite encasement and remains on permanent display in our Holocausts Museum. Each year our beautiful Torah Scroll is used during Yom Hashoah Services; during Yizkor; and on Shabbat Zachor.
Many Jews from Europe were lost in the Holocaust, and synagogue's destroyed, but uniquely, their Torah Scrolls have been saved. That Jews were killed, but the Torah Scrolls survived remains as a potent symbol. That these Torah Scrolls survived the Holocaust, is little short of miraculous. That they were not looted and plundered, sold or dispersed, or simply destroyed is amazing. This Scroll along with hundreds of others lay almost forgotten in a small deserted synagogue in a suburb of Michle in Prague.
This Scroll, was part of a huge collection of Jewish ceremonial objects that the Germans had confiscated and desecrated, and saved for a permanent exhibit of "relics of the extinct Jewish race," Working under the supervising of their German taskmasters, Jews in Prague sorted and cataloged these scrolls in the old synagogues of Prague in stacks that reached the ceiling.
For Jews employed this task, it was a short reprieve; when their task was completed, most of them were deported and eventually perished in the death camps. However, one would like to believe that as the Torah scrolls passed beneath their hands, they took comfort in the hope that Hitler would fall and that the scrolls, would be returned to the restored Jewish communities.
For over twenty years, the scrolls lain unattended in a Prague synagogue, deteriorating from lack of care. In order to keep parchment scrolls from perishing, they must be unfolded from time to time. This was patently impossible to do with over 1,500 scrolls housed in desperately cramped quarters. And so the scrolls seemed condemned to slowly decay.
However, In 1963, Artia officials, in charge of the collection approached Eric Estorick, a well-known London art dealer, to ask him what might be done about the scrolls. Estorick brought in Chimen Abramsky, a historian and acknowledged authority on Hebraica and Judaica. Abramsky examined the scrolls, about 250 scrolls had no protective covering. Others were swathed in tattered prayer shawls. He found two scrolls wrapped in a woman's garment. Another was tied with a small belt from a child's coat. One scroll was spattered with human blood. From one of the scrolls a scrap of paper fell out, apparently left there by a scribe who had examined the scroll in 1940 to see whether it was in need of repairs. "Please, God, help us in these troubled times," the note read. "It was quite incredible to see this," Abramsky said in London. "I burst into tears."
Finally in February of 1964, more than 1,500 Torah scrolls arrived in London, each representing hundreds of Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia that had been wiped out in the Holocaust. They had traveled across Europe to England in five sealed railroad cars, the largest shipment of Torah scrolls known in Jewish history. From the London railroad station they were reverently transferred to their temporary home, the Westminster Synagogue in London. Over the years, these Scrolls have been adopted by Jewish communities all over the world, to be cherished as memorials to a tragic past but at the same time to be read and studied by a new generation of Jews, the guarantors of Jewish survival and rebirth.
Over 1400 of the Scrolls have been entrusted on permanent loan organizations around the world more than 1,000 in the USA. They remain the property of the Trust. The majority are now at synagogues such as ours and other Jewish institutions, with several at universities, and elsewhere including at the Royal Library Windsor and the White House.
LOCATE A SCROLL
Find other Torah Scrolls located throughout the world. The aim of this project is to link over 1000 Torah Scroll holders to the MST and to each other, ensuring their Torah scrolls remain identified, their location known, visitors to their site will learn about the special legacy of these survivors and witnesses of the Shoah and
most importantly, they will never be forgotten.