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Mission: Torah Rescue

C.B. Gavant

What happens when our beautiful Sifrei Torah fall into foreign hands, or must be left behind when Jews are expelled from their hometowns? How can we reclaim our Sifrei Torah and bring them back where they belong? Sometimes the Hand of Hashem is especially clear when it comes to rescuing these Sifrei Torah. Read on to learn how our Sifrei Torah have been saved, time and again, and remained among the Jewish People.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Krautheim, Germany, is a tiny town that was settled by Jews in the thirteenth century. Legend has it that the town was flooded shortly after the Jews settled in it, and one of the buildings destroyed in the flood was the newly constructed shul. Amazingly, the Sefer Torah in the shul remained unharmed. A note on the Sefer Torah tells us that the Torah scroll was swept away by the water, yet was miraculously rescued. Amazingly, the letters were not smudged by the water, but were found to be as clear as ever.

Seven hundred years later, there were still Jews living in Krautheim, even though they had been expelled three times in the intervening years (as was common in Germany in the Middle Ages). Yet on Succos of 1940, all the Jews of the town were rounded up and taken to prison camps. Each person was allowed to take only one suitcase with him, and all Jewish homes and possessions were confiscated by the Gestapo (the official secret police of Nazi Germany).

In May and June of 1941, the Nazis held a series of public auctions to sell these confiscated possessions. Yehudah (Adolf) Lobel, a native of Krautheim, was living in Karlsruhe, Germany, when the auctions were held. Passing by one of the auctions, he saw a Sefer Torah bearing a note written in beautiful old script attesting that it had come from Krautheim.

Acting quickly and fearlessly, Mr. Lobel looked around to check that no one was looking, and then he grabbed the Sefer Torah. He knew he couldn’t bring it home — if it were found in his property, he and his family would be punished severely. Instead, he took it to a building on Kronenstrasse that had once served as the Jewish hospital. Once inside the building, Mr. Lobel placed the Sefer Torah in the corner of the attic. He hid it behind a huge pile of bricks and prayed it would be safe.

Yehudah Lobel survived the war and was liberated by the French Army. The first thing he did upon recovering from his ordeal was go to Karlsruhe to find the Sefer Torah he had hidden.

Karlsruhe had been heavily bombed by the Allies during the war, and Kronenstrasse (a street in the downtown area) was almost completely destroyed. Yehudah Lobel found the upper half of the Jewish hospital smashed and in ruins — except for one corner of the attic, where his precious Torah scroll lay hidden.

Mr. Lobel’s joy was beyond words. He carefully cleared away the bricks and rubble and retrieved the Sefer Torah, which had miraculously survived not just a flood in the thirteenth century, but also the Nazi auction and the war.


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