Poland, 1941. While the Jews of Europe had already been forced into the ghettos, and before their transfer to the extermination camps, community leaders in the Lublin ghetto sought to maintain their Jewish character and way of life, and also dreamed of the Land of Israel.
A rare document has been found in the archives of the Shem Olam Holocaust Institute, which was sent out in October 1941 by the Jewish Council of the Lublin ghetto, detailing the curriculum they wished to impart to the children of the ghetto. According to the instructions of the Judenrat – the Jewish administrative agencies in the ghettos who worked with the Nazis – any activity the Jews wished to carry out in the ghetto, whether cultural or religious, required the approval of the German authorities.
The detailed outline of the plan contains numerous topics related to the Land of Israel, including aliyah, familiarity with the land, the Hebrew language and more.
To this day, it is not known whether the plan was approved by the Germans and whether the children of the ghetto could learn about the Land of Israel, but the document offers a unique insight into the wishes of the Jews caught up in the Holocaust to adhere not only to the values and traditions of Judaism, but also to pass on to future generations the connection to the history and heritage of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), including the festival of Tu Bishvat, the holiday for the trees.
A state in the making
The curriculum details a study plan that covered the history of the Jewish people, the Land of Israel, and Jewish life during the First World War.
With regards to the Land of Israel, the curriculum touches on aliyah, cities of the Yeshuv (the pre-state Jewish community), Jewish pioneers and natural resources and agriculture.
In March 1942, the Nazis began the transfer of the Jews of the Lublin ghetto to the extermination camps, while some were murdered where they lived.
"Despite already experiencing horrors at the cruel hands of German murderers, the desire of the Jews to maintain a spiritual life and preserve their heritage did not die," says Shem Olam founder Rabbi Avraham Krieger.
"Most of the stories from the time of the Holocaust deal with the dedication of the Jews to uphold their religion and to preserve their Judaism in an impossible reality," he says. "But this document offers us a rare insight into the strong desire to learn and pass on to the next generation an affinity and longing for the Land of Israel, its landscapes and the Hebrew language."