The Fabulous Survivor’s Passover Haggadah.

By Solly Ganor

Munich, April 12, 1946

“There is no such thing as a “bad” or ‘good’ exile. Every exile leads to extinction.” Holocaust survivor Sheinson.

The harsh winter of 1946 in Munich was coming to an end. Spring was in the air and the Passover holiday was approaching. For us, Holocaust survivors, it was of tremendous significance. It was our first Passover Seder after our liberation. We were going to celebrate a double holiday of Freedom. One for the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and the other, our Exodus from Hitler’s concentration camps. Yet the two events were vastly different. Moses managed to bring the whole Jewish people to freedom, whereas only a fraction of European Jewry survived the Holocaust. What were we to do? Spend the rest of our lives mourning for our nearest and dearest? The calamity was so enormous that had we mourned for a thousand years, it would not even make the tiniest dent in our grief. We also knew that those who perished wouldn’t want us to do that. Their expressed wish was never to forget them, but to go on with our lives, rebuild the Jewish nation from scratch in our own homeland in Israel.

The debate of what should be the fate of the Sheerit Hapleta (the saved remnant) was going on in the DP camps all over Germany. Most of us were still in shock of the incredible liberation, when we were convinced that the Nazis would finish us off before their end came. Most of us were in a forced denial trying to shut out the gruesome experiences that no human being should have ever been subjected to. We couldn’t function without that denial. The black hole of the Holocaust trauma would have swallowed us alive. But there was one thing that the majority agreed upon, that there is no other place for us, but Eretz Israel.

The project of the survivors Haggadah was born in Munich and the person whose brainchild it was, was my father’s friend Sheinson. He had the idea that we survivors should have our own Haggadah, different from the traditional one. He was a fellow survivor from Lithuania, and he literally became obsessed with the project. Some thought it was a way of trying to forget what happened to him and his family. Not only did he write much of the text, but was involved in all the phases of its complicated logistics. He often consulted fellow Lithuanian Jews, among them my father, but he always made his final decision what to include and what to exclude from the Haggadah. I remember some of the arguments involving the text, as he advocated Allyah to Israel as the only way remaining to us survivors. Especially one sentence was objected by some: He wrote in Yiddish: “Nito kein shlechter oder guter goles. Yeder goles firt zum untergang.” (There is no such thing as a “bad” or ‘good’ exile. Every exile leads to extinction.)

You must understand, that there were those among us, who were tired, dispirited, mourning after their nearest and dearest who perished in the Holocaust. The idea of going to Israel to face strife, hard work and war, after what they went through was impossible to accept. They simply couldn’t take it anymore. Those of us who were determined to make Aliyah, could understand them. They simply didn’t have it in them to continue to struggle indefinitely, as the struggle in Eretz Israel seemed to indicate. Still, Sheinson included that sentence, despite some protests.

The person who worked tirelessly to help us was U.S. Army chaplain Rabbi Abraham Klausner. He played an important role in all phases of our existence in Bavaria. From helping to establish the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Bavaria, to founding the first Yiddish newspaper (Unzer Weg).

My father, who was one of the founders of the first Hebrew school in Munich and a member of the Central Committee, couldn’t praise Rabbi Klausner enough for all he did for us survivors.

It was Rabbi Klausner who helped with the logistics of having the Haggadah printed. The printing of the Haggadah was done by a group that called itself “Achida.” They were fellow survivors from Kovno Ghetto, who tried to avoid getting involved in the politics of the Yishuv in Eretz Israel. Ironically, the Haggadah was printed by a former Nazi printing house named Bruckman, who published during the war Nazi propaganda.

The two editors of Unzer Weg, Levi Shalit and Israel Kaplan, both fellow Lithuanians, took the Haggadah to Rabbi Klausner who accepted it and had it printed through army press facilities. There were some changes introduced by Klausner. The new cover was emblazoned with the tricolor insignia, in the middle of which there was a large white capital A, for the Third Army. (The army of occupation of Bavaria.) There was a poetic two-page introduction in English by Rabbi Klausner.

“And the khaki-clad sons of Israel commanded by Lt. General Trust gathered together as was the custom in Israel, to celebrate the Passover Festival.”

Was the first sentence of the part of the Haggadah. The next page said in small letters: “We were slaves to Hitler in Germany”

Following was a Hebrew version and a Yiddish version of the Haggadah. Some of it was traditional text, but much was written by Sheinson’s anguished soul, reflecting the anger of the horrors inflicted on us and hope for a new life in Eretz Israel.

Here is a passage in the Haggadah that Sheinson wrote. It is full of bitterness and irony towards the world.

“When the righteous among the nations of the world saw that Hitler had decided to exterminate Israel, their great assembly came together and out of their great sorrow decided to keep silent. And the righteous among them say: How can we in our weakness save Israel from the hands of the evil man! Perhaps this is the hand of G-d and who are we to interfere in the conduct of this world. And the people see how Israel is swimming in their blood and they pass by. And the children of Israel groaned and cried out but were not heard. And they cried out to the Lord, the G-d of their fathers, who saw their suffering and oppression, and their cry went up. And that man of evil, Hitler, made instruments of destruction which he sent across the sea, killing many. Babies were being killed and still no one knew what to do about it. Finally, the enemies of that man of evil grew indignant, and they girded themselves and unleashed against that man of evil and his people great wrath, rage and fury, disaster, and a band of avenging angels, afflicting them with two hundred and fifty plagues. And G-d hardened Hitler’s heart. And instruments of destruction, and eagles of iron and copper shower fire and brimstone upon his garrison cities, killing man and beasts alike.

And a multitude of chariots, as plenty as the sands of the sea, sweep across the land of the evil man, and destroy him, and the Holocaust survivors (Sheerit Hapletah, the saved remnant) are rescued and redeemed.

When peace came down on earth, the people of Israel were gathering. The surviving remnants were coming out of the caves, out of forests, and out of death camps, returning to the land of their exile. The people of those lands greeted them and said: We thought you were no longer alive, and here you are, so many of you. And they sent the survivors all sorts of messages, telling them to leave the land, even killing them. And the people of Israel ran for their lives; they were sneaking across borders only to be robbed of everything they had. And they abandoned their homes, and they saved their lives, and they went to Bavaria in order to go up to our Holy Land.”

Y.D. Sheinson

* * * * * *

This is but a small example of what is written in the Haggadah, we called survivor’s Haggadah, but some, rightfully, call it Sheinson’s Haggadah.

The full text of the Haggadah with an inspiring introduction by Professor Saul Touster can be obtained from the American Jewish Historical Society, in New York. ID # ISBN 0-911934-50-2

I would like to add that what makes the Haggadah even more unique are the printings of the original woodcuts surrounding each page. It was supplied by a superb artist and fellow survivor, Miklos Adler.

April 20, 2011 | 8 Comments »

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  1. Thank you very much, Jack, for your kind words. I believe you are, unfortunately, correct about the nations, but thank G-d for those persons willing to stand, on His Word and for His people. I feel moved to share part of the testimony of Casper ten Boom, the builder of the “Hiding Place”. This is extracted from an article about him on the web:
    The family of Casper was a devout generous Christian family, and according to The Hiding Place, in 1918, the family took in the first of many foster children that they would shelter over the years. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Casper became very active in helping Jewish people fleeing from the Nazis. In May 1942 a woman came to the Ten Booms asking for help. Nervously, she told Ten Boom that she was a Jew and that her husband had been arrested several months before, and her son had gone into hiding. Occupation authorities had recently visited her, and she was too fearful to return home. After hearing about how they had previously helped other Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust, she asked if she might stay with them, and Casper readily agreed. A devoted reader of the Old Testament, Casper ten Boom believed Jews were indeed “the chosen,” and told the woman, “In this household, God’s people are always welcome.” When the Nazis began requiring all Jews to wear the Star of David, he voluntarily wore one also.[4]
    Arrest and death
    On February 28, 1944, the Gestapo raided his house and arrested Casper and his daughters. As he was interrogated, the Gestapo told him they would release him because of his age so that he could “die in his own bed”. He replied: “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door to anyone who knocks for help”.[4] On March 10, Casper died at the Hague Municipal Hospital at the age of 84 after only ten days in Scheveningen Prison. When Casper was asked if he knew he could die for helping Jews, he replied, “It would be an honor to give my life for God’s chosen people.”
    To Casper’s final line, I can only say Omein!

  2. Thanks to Ted Belman for posting this. I had never heard of it and it is a precious piece of our history.

    Robert, thank God there were some like your father and some who risked their lives and the lives of their families to shelter and protect Jews from the Nazis. How tragic that they were not in their respective governments but we know that the friends of the House of Israel have always been individuals, such as your father and yourself, and never nations.

  3. A belated chag sameach, John, Thomas, and Yitzhak. Thank you for your kind words, John and Thomas. A few years ago, an Orthodox friend of mine, aware of my work for Yisrael and my battle against antisemitism and (especially) the great lie of “replacement theology”, stated to others that I was a “righteous Gentile”. That brought tears to my eyes, but let me state, unequivocally, that I know I’m not entitled to such a title. I do see my father in that light, as he had to risk his own life in hand-to-hand combat, too fearful that a bullet from his M1 would penetrate the German’s body and hit the Rabbi. He’s my hero, and I’ve spent over 65 years in trying to live up to his example. Yitzhak, I also can’t understand why this wonderful Haggadah isn’t more widely known. I’ve sent it out to several thousand with whom I regularly communicate, and I trust and hope they’ll share with others. G-d bless each of you, and blessed be the memory of the slain. Never Again!

  4. I am the daughter of survivors from the Kovno ghetto, born in Munich’s Feldefing D.P. camp in the summer of 1946. How fitting that I should now be leading a movement to save Christians and Jews from slaughter within the Islamic world by today’s “New Nazis”, the Islamists. Americans must wake up to the terror being inflicted upon infidels throughout the globe.

  5. Thank you Robert. We say in our Haggadah the traditional words “In every generation men have risen up to destroy us, but the Almighty has snatched us from their hands”. His agents are good people in every generation. They give us hope for our journey.

  6. As an American Gentile, I feel enormous shame for my country’s failure to take action against the camps while prosecuting the war, as well as Roosevelt’s refusal to accept the many refugees he could certainly have saved. My glimmer of hope lies in my father, who fought in the Third Army’s North Africa campaign, was seriously wounded and returned home. My father taught me from the age of understanding that the Jewish people were eternally G-d’s chosen, to be respected and supported in any possible way. Like many veterans, he never spoke of what he had done in the war, with one important exception. He came upon a German soldier in the process of murdering an old Moroccan Rabbi and saved the Rabbi by using his trench knife to kill the German. He was proud to have been given the chance to save one of G-d’s own, and I am proud to call him my father. His body has lain in the grave for nearly 32 years, now, complete with the German shrapnel he bore there. If he lived still, he would join me in proudly proclaiming, Never Again! G-d bless Am Yisrael!