The History of
Our Holocaust Torah
by: Cecil Lander, May 2012

 

Identification tag on Scroll

Our Holocaust Torah

A passage from
our Torah Scroll

 

In 1942 a group of Jews in Prague decided to save religious treasures from the synagogues in the Bohemian and Moravian regions of the former Czechoslovakia. Much to their surprise the German occupiers agreed and over 100,000 pieces of synagogue artifacts, including about 1,800 Torah scrolls were collected and brought to Prague for safekeeping. Today many of these articles are on display in various synagogue museums in the Jewish quarter of Prague, in what is now the Czech Republic.

On February 7, 1964 the Westminster Synagogue in London purchased 1,564 Torahs from the Communist State of Czechoslovakia and created the Memorial Scrolls Trust. The scrolls were inspected, recorded and in many cases repaired. Many of them have been distributed worldwide, on long term loan agreements, to be memorials everywhere to the Jewish tragedy.

In 1992 our first president, Steve Zafir contacted the Memorial Scrolls Trust and applied for a Holocaust Torah.  Scroll #1143 was assigned to Kol Tikvah. Harold Plotnick, a friend of founding members Harvey and Christie Rudich, happened to be flying from London to South Florida and hand carried the scroll to our storefront location in Coral Springs.

Kol Tikvah’s scroll was written in 1880 and came from the small town of Kostelec nad Orlici (pronounced Kosteletz nat Orlisee) meaning Kostelec on the river Orlici. Exploring deeper we find that the actual location of the synagogue was in the adjacent village of Doudleby nad Orlici but for consistency we will use Kostelec as the original location of our scroll

Records show that Jews lived in this town beginning as far back as 1640, and 8 Jewish families lived there in 1650. They were winemakers, tanners and general merchants. By 1834 the community grew to 305 Jews which was about 30% of the population of this town.

The first synagogue was built in 1777 out of wood but was replaced by a brick building in 1821. This was sold after the war to a local church and is still standing. No Jews returned back to their home town after the war, and none have lived there since.

The following four pictures show the synagogue where our Torah resided for more than 60 years

Synagogue
around 1940

Stairway
to Women’s gallery

Synagogue
around 1984

Walled
off woman’s gallery

To remember the tragedy the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague has recorded the name of every Jew who died from Bohemia and Moravia. Painted on every wall inside the Synagogue are the names of 80,000 innocent men, women and children who lost their lives in the Shoah.

On the colored picture one can see, written in Yellow, the name of the town, in this case Kostelec nad Orlici, followed, written in Red, by the family name of the person who perished, and finally, written in Black, the first name and date of birth.

Wall plaque,
Pinkas Synagogue,
Prague. 2012

Kostelec nad Orlici
on painted wall.
2012

It is impossible not to be moved by looking at all of these names painted on every conceivable space of this synagogue.

Over 100,000 sacred artifacts were saved but we lost 80,000 souls.

According to the terms of the long term loan, Kol Tikvah is obligated to periodically use the Holocaust Torah to perpetuate the names of those victims associated with our Torah. We are pleased to note that Kol Tikvah meets our obligation in this regard. We read from this Torah during the afternoon service at Yom Kippur, at the service honoring our confirmation class and of course at Yom Hashoah. We now know the names of 19 members of this community who perished in the camps and we list them as follows.

Rudolph Hoffman
Born Feb 17, 1880
Transport date Unknown
Died Unknown

Arnost Jelinek
Born July 9, 1904
Transport date Unknown
Died Auschwitz
Jan 15, 1943

Arnost Kaufmann
Born Oct 3, 1905
Transported to Terezin
Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Bela Kaufmann
Born Sep 15, 1866
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Died Terezin
Apr 19, 1943

Eliska Kaufmannova
Born July 8, 1877
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Died Teretzin
Oct 23, 1943

Gertruda Kaufmannova
Born Sep 22, 1908
Transported to Terezin
Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Aranka Pluharova
Born June 23, 1910
Died Auschwitz
Aug 26, 1944

Hugo Popper
Born June 3, 1905
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Ida Rzihovska
Born Aug 17, 1890
Transported to Terezin
Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Josef Schaffer
Born Nov 18, 1870
Transported to Terezin
Dec 21, 1942
Died Teretzin
Sep 27, 1943

Gustav Spiegel
Born July 13, 1875
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Died Teretzin Feb 6, 1943

Josef Spiegel
Born Mar 22, 1906
Transported to Terezin
Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Augusta Spiegelova
Born Sept 25, 1882
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Sep 6, 1943
Died Unknown

Frantisek Zimmer
Born Oct 31, 1904
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Jiri Zimmer
Born May 27, 1930
Transported to Terezin
Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Jana Zimmerova
Born July 27, 1934
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Julie Lowyova
Born Oct 17, 1858

Valerie Zimmerova
Born Nov 4, 1908
Transported to Terezin Dec 21, 1942
Transported to Auschwitz Jan 23, 1943
Died Unknown

Vilma Kohnova
Born May 11, 1886

May their names live forever as we remember them by using their ancient Torah


Acknowledgements

Lois Rubin was instrumental in encouraging the research into the history of our Torah. She provided background information that helped get the work started. Thank you Lois.

We also thank Jiri Fiedler of the Jewish Museum in Prague and the museum’s library staff for their assistance in providing historical facts listed above.

A special thanks to Eytan Lederer of Haifa, Israel whose family lived in Doudleby nad Orlici as far back as 1780 and at least one member of the family was the Shammash of the synagogue. Eytan has provided photos and other data of the region gathered during his recent visit to the town.

Old entry to Synagogue

Partial view of ceiling, 2010. See 1940 picture above

Synagogue entry in disrepair

Synagogue as it looked in 2010

Rabbi Boxman and Eytan Lederer
June 2012