The Shem Olam Holocaust and Faith Institute announced that a worn-out Haggadah, along with some other Passover items, hidden at the Chelmno Death Camp in Poland has been discovered upon excavations at the site. The Haggadah was evidently badly desecrated by the Nazis, who had burnt it, yet passages related to the search for Hametz and other sections did manage to survive.

The Shem Olam Holocaust and Faith Institute was founded in 1996 by Rabbi Avraham Kreiger, with the express purpose of focusing on “the coping of the community and the spirit during the Shoah,” claiming, “This perspective reveals and analyses the wellsprings of spirit and the powers of the soul which stood firm” during a “fateful test.”

The Shem Olam Holocaust and Faith Institute believes that this allows for a better understanding for the struggle between the Jewish faith and pure “destruction, evil and degeneration.”

According to Kreiger, “The Nazis told Jews who had been deported to Chelmno that they were being relocated to a village faraway in the east; they told them each person could bring only lightweight items with a combined weight of 3 to 4 kilograms (7 to 9 pounds). Because of the limited number of items they were allowed to carry, the Jews brought their most important items, but many brought with them things that belonged to their spiritual life and identity…”

He continued, “The mere fact that they added these things shows that they were loyal to their faith, to the holiday and to tradition; they demonstrated that they did not let the Germans break their spirit. Most of the death camps had no such items left behind, but since Chelmno was the first death camp on Polish soil, the Nazis had yet to have at their disposal a sophisticated apparatus and consequently, some of the property was buried, and survived.”

It was in operation from December 7, 1941 through March 1943. It resumed its operations on June 23, 1944, yet was closed down on January 17, 1945. Between 150,000 and 300,000 people were slaughtered in the Chelmno Death Camp when it was in operation, with most of the victims being Jews.

It was at Chelmno that the first mass killings by gas of Jews took place as part of the Nazi Final Solution, which sought to eliminate the Jewish people from the face of the planet as part of the worst genocide in human history. Six million Jews would be murdered by the Nazis, comprising two thirds of the Jewish community that existed in Europe at that time.

Each afternoon, Jews would be brought into the Chelmno Death camp, where their valuables were confiscated and they were forced to undress. The Nazis told them that they would be transferred to a work camp, but that they needed to shower first. The Nazis then shoved them into a van disguised as a washroom. When about 50-70 people were crammed inside, the Nazis shut the door and gassed the people inside to their deaths. Jews, wearing irons on their bodies to prevent their escape, were forced to bury fellow Jews in mass graves.

Another group of Jewish slaves sorted out the deceased Jews belongings so that the Third Reich could utilize them. The survival of a Hagaddah is an example of what Shem Olam calls ” the humanity of a large segment of Jews who dwelt in darkness & the shadow of Death, in a surrounding world of Inhumanity.”

By Rachel Avraham

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