Friday, March 14, 2014

A Purim Manuscript from the Holocaust

Purim evening at the Ilia camp in Transylvania in 1943 was a very difficult one. Conditions were unbearable and spirits were very low. Zvi Hershel Weiss, a prisoner at the camp, decided to write a text for the holiday to uplift the mood of his fellow Jews imprisoned alongside him. Recently, Zvi’s son, Shmuel Yitzhak Weiss donated the manuscript, written in Yiddish, to Yad Vashem as part of the Gathering the Fragments campaign.
Zvi Hershel Weiss' Purim manuscript
Shmuel Yitzhak recounts in his testimony that on the evening of Purim 1943, inmates of the camp did not have the traditional Megillah scroll of the Book of Esther to read from. His father, Zvi Hershel Weiss, who according to Shmuel Yitzhak was known for his sense of humor and his love of joking around, hand wrote a text in Yiddish, combining the story in the Book of Esther with the story of the inmates. Zvi read the manuscript accompanied by music, and that is how the Ilia camp celebrated Purim in 1943. (In his testimony to Yad Vashem in 2007 Shmuel Yitzhak recited the text in its original cantillations). In August 1944, the Weiss family were liberated, and later Shmuel and his parents immigrated to Israel.
Shmuel Yitzhak explained his decision to give the rare document to Yad Vashem: "The handwritten document is very dear to my heart and it was difficult for me to part with it, but my wife urged me to give it to Yad Vashem, and in the end I decided that it is important for the Jewish people as a whole and that other people should also know about its existence. I made a copy of the manuscript at home and gave the original to Yad Vashem, and after handing it over wished I had done it earlier."
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said: "In many homes in Israel there are personal items and documentation from the Holocaust period that are unknown and not accessible to the public. Many of the owners of these items are unaware of their importance and the necessity to properly and professionally preserve them. We urge people to hand these precious items to Yad Vashem as here they will be well preserved and made accessible to the wider public."
For more information about donating personal items from the Holocaust to Yad Vashem please contact: Phone: 1-800-25-77-77 (within Israel) +972-2-6443888 (outside Israel) Email: collect@yadvashem.org.il.

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