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Essay, The Safer Torah the Nazis Couldn't Burn by Henry Schuster, no date



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The Safer Torah the Nazis Couldn't Burn By Henry Schuster I arrived in Ansbach, Germany in September of 1945 to serve with the 42nd Headquarters Squadron of the 9th Air Force. Ansbach was a city of approximately thirty thousand inhabitants. The city is located half way between Wuerzburg and Nuernberg in the heart of Bavaria. Our Air Base was in Katterbach, a small town adjoining Ansbach. We were a unit of2500 personnel. Because I spoke German well, I was assigned to work with the U.S. and German telephone crews integrating our American phone system with the German system. For a period I was loaned to a Prisoner-of-war Camp outside of Nuernberg. On my return to Katterbach, Master Sergeant Slayback, the Sergeant Major of our base asked me to convert a cattle auction arena into a night club for our personnel. At this period of time the U.S. soldiers were allowed to fraternize with German civilians. Of the 2500 men, approximately 100 were Jewish. We had no Jewish Chaplain. Because of my ability to read Hebrew, I also organized friday night services. To my amazement, I was told by a German civilian that in the heart of Ansbach was a synagogue which was not destroyed during the infamous Kristallnacht in November of 1938. This synagogue was in disarray but it was basically usable. The reason for its survival was that on the left side it had a common wall with an apartment building and on the right side facing the buildings, a high ranking S.S. Officer had his house. Except for that fortuity, as was the fate as of most synagogues in 1938 in Germany and Austria, and it also would have been burned. The Christian janitor, living across the street, sneaked into the House of Worship at night and snatched the oldest Safer Torah(Holy Scriptures) from the Ark, took it to his house and buried it in a clay tile in his backyard. After Germany's surrender he then placed it into the remaining part of the Ark. We soldiers and several Holocaust Survivors living in a nearby Displaced Persons Camp, were now using the miraculous synagogue for our Friday Night Services. A Jewish Chaplain came twice a month from Nurnberg and conducted the Shabbat Service for us. Throughout the past years I've told this story many times. In 1995 Anita (my wife), our oldest son Alan and family visited Germany. Anita and I made a trip to Ansbach to see if the synagogue was still there. After 50 years my memory didn't fail me. Yes, I drove directly to the place. The synagogue was as I remembered it. It was locked. After a lengthy search for a key we were happily surprised to find this fine House of Worship completely restored and in excellent condition. Yes, the old Safer Torah was still in the Ark. Our guide corroborated my story. The sad fact is that there are no Jews living in Ansbach, therefore the edifice is for show only and a memorial for those that perished. This past January, our son Alan and I were in Germany for a Bar Mitzvah. As Alan didn't see the Temple on our trip in 1995, we decided to drive the 35 miles to Ansbach. Again the doors were locked. Across the street the owner of a bookstore was able to have someone open the double doors and turn on the lights. The interior was as I saw it in 1995. I was shocked to find the Safer Torah no longer in the Ark. I was then assured by a prominent resident of Ansbach that this wonderful old Holy Scroll is now on display at the Jewish Museum in Munich. and Austria. During the 1930s, the United States State Department, under the leadership of Cordell Hull, used the excuse that the immigrants would flood the job market. This policy included children, but certainly they would not have taken any jobs from anyone. On October 28, 1938, 17,000 Jews of Polish descent, many of whom had been living in Germany for decades, were arrested and relocated across the Polish border. The Polish government refused to admit them, so they were interned into a camp on the Polish frontier. Among those deportees was Zindel Grynspan, who was born in western Poland. In 1911, he moved to Hanover, Germany, and established a business. He married and started his family. Zindel's oldest son was living in Paris with his brother and attended school. However, the rest of the family was also deported. The Nazis confiscated all their belongings, including the house and business. When seventeen-year-old Herschel received the news about what happened to his family, he decided to get revenge. With pistol in hand, he arrived at the German Embassy in Paris to kill the German Ambassador. The Ambassador was not at the embassy. Herschel confronted the third ranking official, Secretary Ernst Von Rath, and shot him. Hitler and his gang used this act as a conspiracy by the Jews of Germany and Austria against the government. It was absurd; however, the vicious propaganda Minister Goebels went on national radio and ordered his goons, the Brownshirts [Sturmabteilung or "Storm troopers"], to act immediately against Jews in any manner they wished. November ninth became the infamous Kristallnacht. Many homes were 2 looted; existing businesses were looted and destroyed. Thousands of windows were smashed, hence the name of "The Night of the Broken Glass." All Jewish men from the age of eighteen were arrested and incarcerated into the notorious concentration camps, Dachau and Buchenwald. All synagogues were destroyed and torched. All Holy Scriptures were strewn into the streets and desecrated. Desperation now existed. It was time to flee Germany as fast as possible. If one had means to buy their freedom from the camps, the stipulation was to leave the country within several days. It was still possible. Many families, including mine, had no way to escape. Parents wanted to save their children and found ways for them to leave Germany and Austria. Realizing the imminent danger for German and Austrian Jews, several European countries opened their borders for children. These children became known as the "Kinder- transports." England was the most gracious and accepted 10,000. France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Switzerland also accepted some. Israel (then Palestine under the British mandate) was allowed to receive a small number. I assume this act of limitation was to please the Grand Mufti. The French Rothschild family sponsored several hundred children to France. Yes, I was one of the lucky ones. Eleven of us left Frankfurt on March 8, 1939. For us children, it was exciting to now be free of constant harassment at the hands of the Nazis. Mother, Bertel, and Margot accompanied us to the train station. Years later I realized the sad look on my mother's face was from the realization that she might never see or touch me again. Now, as father and grandfather, I realize the pain of saying good-bye forever to your children. 3 We arrived in Paris late in the afternoon and were taken to the Rothschild Hospital. The Baroness greeted us. We then met the contingent of children that arrived from Berlin and Stettin. The next morning a large group arrived from Vienna. A few days later, the group was disbanded. Most went to a newly opened children's home operated by an organization known as the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants). Three of us boys were sent to an Orthodox French Boys School. Two weeks after arriving at the school, my two so-called siblings and an adult supervisor accompanied me to the local synagogue in the Bois de Boulogne. Before I recited my portion of the Torah, the Rabbi spoke. At that time, I did not speak enough French to understand his remarks. I looked up to the balcony and saw and heard ladies crying. I became so distraught that I started to cry. After a few minutes, fully controlled, I performed my torah reading. Two weeks later, the school closed for Passover. The three of us were returned to the Rothschild Hospital. The Baroness came daily and picked us up for various exciting outings in Paris. She took us up the Eiffel Tower, riding a camel at the Paris Zoo, and many other delightful excursions. Instead of returning to Ecole Maimonides, we were reunited with our companions at the OSE home. Sometime during the summer of 1939, approximately thirty children from the ship St. Louis joined us. As the German Army approached Paris, the home was disbanded and we escaped to Southern France. In 1941, the United States relief organization called The American Jewish 4 Joint Distribution Committee convinced the Roosevelt Administration to accept children from France. Eleanor Roosevelt was very instrumental in convincing the State department to issue visas. A non-Jewish organization was needed to make all the necessary arrangements. The American Quakers [American Friends Service Committee] took on this task. They persuaded the Petain Government to issue exit visas for two hundred refugee children to leave France. I was on the first transport of one hundred children (in the French OSE initiative) to come to the United States via Spain and Portugal. We arrived at Staten Island in June of 1941. Those that had relatives were sent all over America to be with them. I was placed with distant relatives in Shreveport, Louisiana. Life in Shreveport had its good times and unhappy times. However, I realized that I was not wanted. On my eighteenth birthday I entered into the Army Air Corps. For years, we children of the "Kinder Transports" asked ourselves, Why me? Why did thousands of others perish and we were saved? Who picked us? We still don't know. 5 The greatest gift to me was that my sister Betty survived several ancentration camps as well as several forced labor camps. She was liberated in .pril of 1945 by British troops as they entered the infamous Bergen Belsen oncentration Camp. At liberation she was near death, emaciated and very ill. 1 iyer^vgf&tTnfenger In many cases Survivors again became victims of new Programs in their native countries. Those that wanted to emigrate to Palestine to start a new life were interned and put into camps by the British in Cyprus. Others drowned trying to reach the Jewish Homeland in unlit vessels. Many others would not talk about their horrible experiences. Others are still suffering the aftereffects. We the Survivors living in the United States and Israel have become productive citizens and are proud of whom we are