Page 92 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

Basic HTML Version

gogues in Germany at the beginning of 1938. Only a few of this
number were still in existence in 1945. It is impossible to speculate
on the number of books that were consigned to a fiery doom. In
only a few instances were Jewish religious objects and books sal­
vaged by courageous and well-meaning non-Jewish Germans. The
commendable efforts of Cardinal Michael Faulhaber in 1938, on
behalf of the Great Synagogue in Munich, are a noteworthy exam­
After the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of Poland
in September 1939, the German armies embarked upon a wild
spree of destruction, mainly of synagogues. German newspapers
described these acts of vandalism with utter callousness. In this
vein the
Krakauer Zeitung
of November 29, 1939, stated: “A few
nights ago the synagogue and prayer-house in Tomaszow . . . went
up in flames. The fire brigade succeeded in preventing the fire
from spreading to neighboring buildings.” The
of November 16, 1939, reported: “The synagogue on the
Kosciuszko Alley went up in flames yesterday morning. The first
and third fire brigades prevented the flames from spreading to ad­
joining buildings.” At times, however, the Nazi correspondents
shamelessly exhibited their flagrant glee in reporting the barbarous
acts. Thus, the destruction of the famous library of the Lublin Ye-
shivah in 1939 elicited this arrogant statement: “For us it was a
matter of special pride to destroy the Talmudic Academy which
was known as the greatest in Poland. . . . We threw the huge Tal­
mudic library out of the building and carried the books to the mar-
ket-place, where we set fire to them. The fire lasted twenty hours.
The Lublin Jews assembled around and wept bitterly, almost si­
lencing us with their cries. We summoned the military band, and
with joyful shouts the soldiers drowned out the sounds of the Jew­
ish cries”
(Frankfurter Zeitung,
March 28, 1941).
In several Polish cities, notably in Bedzin and in Poznan, special
German “Brenn-Kommandos” (arson squads) were assigned to
burn synagogues and Jewish books. Jews attempting to save Torah
Scrolls or books from the burning buildings were shot or thrown
into the flames. Similar brutalities were reported also in other