The Torah is the cornerstone of Jewish religion and law. The parchment scrolls, which contain the First Five Books of Moses, are the spiritual center of every synagogue. Portions of the Torah are read during weekly services in a cycle beginning each year in the Fall in the Hebrew month of Tishri. During the Nazi era, Jewish religious and cultural institutions suffered unprecedented destruction. Because Torah scrolls are sacred, they became a particular target. In Germany and throughout Nazi-occupied Germany, Torahs and other sacred objects, rare manuscripts, and books were desecrated and burned. Although the Nazis intended to destroy all evidence of Jewish culture and contributions to civilization, they gathered rare books, ancient manuscripts, and artifacts from Jewish libraries, schools, and homes for research at the Institute for Exploration of the Jewish Question in Germany. They had no interest in preserving ancient Jewish heritage. Instead, they intended to use archival materials to discredit Jews and Judaism, thereby providing a rationale for their barbaric destruction. Jewish scholars were conscripted to catalog the stolen objects. Often they risked their lives to hide some of the precious objects they were handling. Their resistance to Nazi orders symbolized their belief in a future for Jews and Judaism. When the war ended in 1945, a feverish search began to locate the stolen objects and, where possible, return them to their places of origin. Since few Jewish communities and synagogues remained intact, much of what was recovered was sent to places of worship and museums outside Europe. The Torah scroll on display here, which was copied onto parchment by a pious scribe in 1830, was removed from a synagogue in Slany, Czechoslovakia. Because it is badly damaged, it can no longer be used for worship services. The scroll, numbered 534, is one of the 1564 Czech Memorial Torahs which were saved from destroyed Jewish communities during Nazi occupation. It is on permanent loan from the Westminster Synagogue in London, England.
To learn more about the organization that was able to save these Torah Scrolls please CLICK HERE.