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An Improbable Relic of Auschwitz: a Shofar That Defied the Nazis

Historians in the News
tags: Holocaust, cultural history, historian, Shofar



For years there have been fragmentary reports of almost unbelievable acts of faith at the Nazi death camps during World War II: the sounding of shofars, the ram’s horn trumpets traditionally blown by Jews to welcome the High Holy Days. 

These stories of the persistence of hope even in mankind’s darkest moments have been passed down despite limited evidence and eyewitness detail.

But could camp prisoners have found ways to sound these horns, piercing the heavens with sob-like wails and staccato blasts, without putting themselves in immediate mortal danger?

Now a new account that addresses that question, and is embraced by several historians as reliable, has emerged from the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor, along with one of the secreted shofars itself.

Dr. Judith Tydor Schwartz, an expert on the Holocaust, says her father, Chaskel Tydor, a longtime prisoner entrusted as work dispatcher at one of the more than 40 Auschwitz subcamps, contrived on Rosh Hashana 1944 to send fellow prisoners on a distant detail where they might safely, and privately, pray. He did not know that they carried something with them. But when they returned, she said, one confided to her father that a shofar had been produced and blown.

What is more, according to the account of Dr. Schwartz, who directs Holocaust research at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, her father was given the shofar for safekeeping in 1945 by a fellow prisoner as the Nazis emptied the camp and fled the advancing Russians.

Read entire article at New York Times

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