Photo: Reuters
'If I don't return, please hand the book over to any Jew.' Torah scroll (illustration)
Photo: Reuters

Torah scroll hidden in Poland arrives in Israel

Holy item kept by Polish family for Jewish neighbor murdered in Treblinka handed over to Jewish activist 72 years later.

On one of the autumn days of 1942, a Jew living in Josefov, a tiny town in northern Poland, knocked on his non-Jewish neighbor's door.



"I know that the Germans are about to carry out an operation in the next few hours and that we will be sent to a camp. I am giving you a book which is very important to the Jews, and asking you to keep it until I return," he told the surprised neighbor.


"If I don't return," he added immediately, "please hand the book over to any Jew."


The Polish neighbor promised to do so. Together with his sons, he hid the heavy Torah scroll in his basement.


The Jew, who was sent to Treblinka, did not return from the death camp. At the end of the war, when the Polish family realized that he did not survive, its members decided not to tell anyone about the book, for fear of hostile reactions from their neighbors. In addition, the authorities forbade residents to keep valuable items taken from Jews.


For 72 years, the book was kept in the basement by one of the sons of the Polish neighbor, who died many years ago. The son, Kazimierz Werblowsky, who works as a shepherd, was afraid to tell people that he was keeping the strange book in the basement, but remembered that his father had instructed him to hand it over only to a Jew.


Recently, he heard about a Jew arriving in the area and decided that it was time to fulfill the murdered Jew's request. He met with several students from the University of Warsaw who are active in the From the Depths association, led by Jonny Daniels, and are trying to locate tombs and mass graves of Jews across Poland. The students arrived at Werblowsky's house with Daniels, who received the Torah scroll.


"I am glad that I finally managed to fulfill the promise my father gave to that Jew," the son said.


Daniels carefully opened the heavy Torah scroll and found out that several sheets had been torn out from it over the years, likely to be used as parchment.


On Monday, Daniels arrived in Israel with the Torah scroll. "It can definitely be restored," he said. After the book is completed, he plans to place it at the Knesset's synagogue in Jerusalem.


פרסום ראשון: 09.06.14, 13:16
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