CLERGY CORNER: 80 years since Kristallnacht Chanukah – The Miracle

Posted on 06 December 2018 by LeslieM

For me, this miracle is most vividly expressed in the following episode.

It was the eighth night of Chanukah in Kiel, Germany, a small town with a Jewish population of 500 (Germany at the time had a Jewish population of 500,000). That year, 1931, the last night Chanukah fell on Friday evening, and Rabbi Akiva Boruch Posner, spiritual leader of the town, was hurrying to light the Menorah before the Shabbat set in.

Directly across the Posner’s home stood the Nazi headquarters in Kiel, displaying the dreaded Nazi Party flag in the cold December night. With the eight lights of the Menorah glowing brightly in her window, Rabbi Posner’s wife, Rachel, snapped a photo of the Menorah right before Shabbat, and captured the Nazi building and flag in the background.

Mrs. Posner wrote a few lines in German on the back of the photo:

Chanukah, 5692 (1931). ‘Judea dies,’ thus says the banner. ‘Judea will live forever,’ thus respond the Chanukah lights.

If you lived at that time in Kiel, or anywhere in Germany, what seemed to be more powerful and everlasting? The menorah or the swastika? One year later, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and the Nazis held a torch-lit procession through the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to celebrate Hitler’s seizure of power (on Jan. 30, 1933).

That gate became the symbol of the Nazi regime. Dozens of parades, motorcades, celebrations and rallies were held by the Brandenburg Gate. Hundreds of thousands of German would gather at that beautiful site, the symbol of Berlin’s splendor and power, to salute the Fuhrer and his 1000-Year-Reich.

Then came the onset of the Holocaust and the Final Solution — 80 years ago, on Nov. 9, 1938, with Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” when 30,000 Jews were deported to Concentration Camps, hundreds beaten to death, thousands of shuls, Jewish homes, and stores burnt to the ground.

80 years have passed. A few nights ago, I spoke to my colleague, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtel, Chief Rabbi of Berlin. And this is what he shared with me.

A few days ago he went to visit the President of Germany, Frank Walter Steinmeier, to discuss the 80th anniversary since the onset of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Teichtel shared with the German President the words that he heard from the person who sent him to Berlin, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that in the place where we saw the greatest darkness we must bring in the greatest light.

So the President of Germany said to the Chabad Rabbi of Berlin that he wants Germany to put up this coming Chanukah (which falls out a few weeks after the 80th anniversary) a massive grand Menorah right at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, in the exact spot where Hitler stood and gave his fiery speeches on the urgent need to rid the world from the bacteria of the Jewish people, their Torah and their G-d. [The menorah was put up and lit starting Dec. 2].

And then the German President asked Rabbi Teichtel if he himself can have the honor to light the menorah?!

And the good Rabbi said, “Yes, of course. You will be lighting the Shamash, that first candle from which we kindle all the other candles.”

So, this Chanukah 2018, [people could] go to the Brandenburg Gate and observe the President of Germany lighting the Shamash of the Chanukah menorah of Chabad in Berlin in the spot where the greatest enemy of the Jewish people stood just a few decades ago.

So, now, friends come back with me to the photo taken in 1931, in Kiel Germany. A wise Jewish woman, Rebbetzin Rachel Posner, wrote on her photo: Chanukah, 5692 (1931). ‘Judea dies,’ thus says the banner. ‘Judea will live forever,’ thus respond the Chanukah lights.

I ask you: Who was right?!

And by the way, both the menorah lit in Kiel in 1931 and the photo survived World War II, because the Rabbi and his wife fled to Israel in 1934, and their grandson Yehudah Mansbuch inherited both and donated them to Yad V’shem.

Yehudah lives today in the city of Haifa with a large family. And each Chanukah, Yad V’shem delivers to his home for eight days the Menorah used by his grandfather in Germany, on the window sill opposite the Swastika. There, in home, in the eternal Jewish homeland, he lights the menorah with his children. And he shows them each year the photo his grandmother took and her inscription.

So I ask you, who was right?! Who triumphed the swastika or the menorah?

Special thanks to my friend and colleague Rabbi YY Jacobson for putting this story on paper.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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