The Israel-based Shem Olam Holocaust and Faith Institute on Thursday showcased items that may have been used for Passover rituals at the Chelmno death camp in western Poland. The items were discovered during excavations of the site in pits containing prisoners’ belongings.
One item is a worn out and partially torn Haggadah that was burned by the Nazis. Several portions dealing with the search for chametz (leavened bread) and other sentences managed to survive. Shem Olam was founded in 1996 by Avraham Krieger. It is located in Kfar Haroeh, just north of Netanya. One of the institute’s projects deals with how Jews coped with the day-to-day struggles during the Holocaust.
“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),” Krieger said.
“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… 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,” he said.
According to Krieger, “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.”