top of page
flamme abstraite
Shoah Auschwitz Bergenbelsen


flamme abstraite


flamme abstraite

Although the Jews in Europe knew well what had happened to many of their brethren, and what was awaiting them should they, too, be caught, many of them did not depart from their customary ways. In numerous places in the ghettos one could see through the windows Jews studying, or wearing tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries), praying the daily services in the midst of the required quorum of at least a minyan (ten men). 

In Warsaw groups of baḥurim, young Talmud students, hid in bunkers scattered all over the ghetto, praying and studying Torah all day, unconcerned with the world outside. Only at night would some of them crawl out of their hiding places in search of food for the minimum needs of their sustenance.  

flamme abstraite

Young people originating from practically every country in Europe would assemble in a corner of the youth barracks in Auschwitz for daily services. One of the participants tells: “Praying ‘in community’ and the keeping of the Mitzvot brought us near to each other, though by origin and background we differed widely.”  Needless to say, the “community” effect of Jewish observance was the same wherever it occurred. 

flamme abstraite
Le guetto de Varsovie en feu

Among the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto was found a document hidden in a small bottle and written by one Yossel Rakover shortly before his death as the ghetto was burning.

It is dated April 28, 1943. We quote from it: 


I Yossel, the son of Yossel Rakover from Tarnopol, a Gerer Chasid, descended from saints and great ẓadikkim… write these lines at a time when the Warsaw ghetto is in flames. The house in which I am now is among the last ones which the fire has not yet reached… It will not be long before this house too will become the grave of its defenders and tenants. By the rays of an exceptionally red sun, which penetrate through the small and half-covered window from where we have been shooting at the enemy for days and nights, I can see that it is evening now. Twilight of sunset. To be sure, the sun knows not how little sorry I am for never seeing it again…
My time has come now. Of myself I can say as once Job did, ‘naked did I leave my mother’s womb and naked do I return…’ I am forty years old. As I contemplate my life, I can say with assurance — as far as any human being may be sure about himself — that I have led an honest life. I was not unsuccessful but I was never proud about it. My house was open to the needy. I was happy when I could help another human being. I have served G-d with fervor and my only request to Him was that He let me serve Him ‘with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’ 
I cannot say that after what has passed over me my reaction to G-d has not changed. What, however, I am able to say with certainty is that my Emunah has not changed a bit. Formerly, in the good times, my relationship to Him was like to one who was continually pouring out His loving kindness on me and I remained forever indebted to Him for that. Now, my relationship to Him is like to one who owes me something…
G-d has hidden His face from His world. Thus, He left His creatures to their wild instincts. To my sorrow I must therefore recognize the fact that when instincts rule the world it is natural that those in whom the Divine element is still alive, the pure ones, must become the first sacrifices. There is not much comfort in this. But since the destiny of our people is not decided by earthly considerations but by transcendental, spiritual, and Divine ones, it is incumbent on the man of Emunah to see in these events aspects of an overriding Divine reckoning, compared to which human tragedies are of lesser importance. This does not mean that a pious Jew ought to ‘justify the Judgment’ and say: ‘G-d is just and His Judgment is just,’ and that we have deserved the blows that we are receiving. To assert that would be self-desecration as well as desecration of the Divine Name… 
I am proud of being a Jew, not in order to spite the world because of Its relationship to us…I would be ashamed to belong to the nations who have produced and nurtured this evil and are responsible for what has been done to us… 
I believe that to be a Jew means to be a fighter, to swim against the befouled and guilty human stream. The Jew is a hero, oppressed, holy. You, our enemies, say that we are bad. We are by far better and nobler than you are. I would have liked to see how you would look if you were in our situation. 
I am happy to belong to the most unfortunate People among the nations, whose Torah is the quintessence of what is exalted and most beautiful in all law and in all ethics; the Torah, which is even more holy and more triumphant now that it has been desecrated, trodden underfoot by the enemies of God. 
I trust in G-d, the G-d of Israel, even though He does everything to destroy my trust. I have trust in His statutes, although I cannot justify His Deeds…I bow my head before His Greatness, but His staff with which He castigates me I shall not kiss… 
I wish to tell You, my G-d, clearly and openly, that now more than at any other time of our endless martyrology we, the oppressed, the down-trodden, the suffocating, buried alive and burned alive, have the right to know, where are the limits of Your Patience? 
Furthermore I have to tell You: do not pull the rope too tight lest it snap. The testing that You have placed upon us is so hard and so bitter that You have to forgive those children of Your People who in their misfortune and their anger turned their back on You… 
Forgive those who despised Your Name and went after other gods, who became indifferent towards You. You have castigated them so hard that they lost their faith that You were their Father, that indeed they all had one Father…but if You are not my G-d, whose G-d are You? The G-d of the murderers? 
If those who hate me, who murder me, are so dark and so wicked, what am I if not someone who in his depth carries something of Your Light and Your Goodness? 
I cannot praise You for the deeds that You tolerate; but I bless You and praise You for Your very Existence, for Your awesome Greatness that seems to be so mighty that whatever is happening now in the world is like nothing in Your Eyes. However, just because You are so Great and I so small, I ask You, I warn You for Your Name’s sake: stop emphasizing Your Greatness by countenancing the torment of the unfortunate. 
I do not ask You to punish the guilty. It is of the fearful nature of these events that in the end the guilty will suffer of themselves. For in our death dies the conscience of the world. A whole world was murdered when it murdered the Jewish People. This world will consume itself in its own wickedness; it will drown in its own blood. 
Death cannot wait any longer. I have to finish. From the floors above me the shooting becomes weaker and weaker. The last of the defenders of our fortress are falling now. With them falls and perishes the great, beautiful, G-d-fearing Warsaw; Jewish Warsaw. The sun is setting and I thank God that I shall not see it rise again…Soon I shall be with my wife and children, with millions of others of my People, who perished, in a better world…without doubts, where G-d alone rules.
I die peacefully, but not satisfied; beaten, but not despairing; trusting, but not pleading; in love with G-d, but not a blind Amen-sayer of His. 
I followed Him, though He pushed me back; I fulfilled His Commandments, even though He made me suffer for it; I loved Him and remain in love with Him, though He has pressed me into the dust, afflicted me to death, reduced me to mockery and derision… 
And these are my last words to You, my G-d of anger: nothing will avail You! You have done everything that I deny You, that I shall not trust You. Yet, I die as I lived — with rocklike Emunah in You. 
May He be praised forever, the G(d of the dead, the G-d of Vengeance, the G-d of Truth and Justice, Who will yet let His Countenance shine upon the world and shake its foundations by the Power of His voice… 
Shema Yisrael! Hear, O Israel! The Eternal is our G-d, the Eternal is One! Into Thy Hand I entrust my spirit.”

Excerpts from Rav Eliezer Berkovitz's book on the Holocaust

flamme abstraite
bottom of page