CBI’s Torah Scroll #1128 is one of the 1,564 Holocaust Torahs preserved by the Nazis who planned to exhibit as “relics of the extinct Jewish race.” Jews from Prague were forced to organize the holy scrolls confiscated from the destroyed synagogues of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia, the Nazi Czech “protectorate.” Torah Scroll #1128 was sorted, classified, cataloged, and stacked from the floor to the ceiling with the other scrolls in an old synagogue in Michle, a suburb of Prague. When World War II ended. the scrolls began to deteriorate from lack of care and were taken by the State Jewish Museum in Prague. In 1963, officials asked a London art dealer, Eric Estorick, if anyone was interested in the old Torahs. Chimen Abramsky, a historian and Judaics expert was called to consult. The examination moved Abramsky to tears. One scroll was spattered with human blood. Another was tied with a belt from a child’s coat. A small scrap of paper fell from inside one Torah, it read “Please G-d, help us in these troubled times.”
Michele Synagogue, Prague, Czech Republic, photo courtesy of Memorial Scrolls Trust
The Torahs traveled from Czechoslovakia in five sealed railroad cars to a synagogue in England that was contemplating setting up a Holocaust memorial museum. The Westminister Synagogue, the official trustee for the scrolls, reverently transferred the Torahs to three rooms to be checked, rehabilitated, and sent all over the world on permanent loan. Scrolls that were too damaged to be considered usable would serve as sacred reminders. Scroll #1128 bears a small brass plaque attached to the “Etz Hayim,” with the inscription: “Westminister Synagogue, London, Czech Memorial Scroll #1128. ”
Some of the 130 scrolls on display at the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust Museum in London, photo courtesy of Memorial Scrolls Trust
Arriving in January of 2002, Bert Adelman and Morry Bornstein, photos courtesy of CBI Archives
Dedicated on Yom Hashoa April 8, 2002 27 Nisan 5762 by Congregation B’nai Israel of St. Petersburg in loving memory of “Maurice “Maury” Goldblatt whose love and devotion to the synagogue enriched the lives of our congregational family. Torah Scroll #1128 is dressed in a white mantle, symbolic of the “takhrikhin,” the shroud in which Jewish people are buried. The six flames represent the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Embroidered on the mantle is the Hebrew word, “Zachor” meaning “Remember.”Congregation B’nai Israel is proud to house the Holocaust Torah in the Aron Kodesh. It serves as a sacred tribute to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and as a promise for future generations that madness will never again reign over humanity and freedom.
The Torah scrolls are witnesses to Czech Jewish life before the Holocaust and are not only a memorial to all those who perished, but are also a link to the future generations who continue to read them and love them, as we do in our own community. These Torah scrolls bind all Jews together regardless of their denomination.
“Ten Commandments, Torah Scroll 1128, CBI photo archives
For information about the Memorial Scrolls Trust, please contact by phone on 0207 584 3741, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.memorialscrollstrust.org. They are in the process of expanding the website substantially, to include data about the towns the scrolls originally came from, the Jewish history of those towns and the fate of those Jews. They also intend to add data of the Recipients to whom the scrolls are on loan, together information from them.