NEWLY DISCOVERED: Beis Din Ledger From Bergen-Belsen With Heterim For Agunos

(Photo: Kedem auction house)

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A ledger documenting the actions of a Beis Din in Bergen-Belsen following its liberation was recently discovered for the first time, Ynet reported on Monday. The ledger, containing over 100 pages of cramped handwriting, was the first documentation of the testimony of Holocaust survivors on their spouses who were murdered by the Nazis, for the purpose of being released from their aginus.

“In 1944, in the month of Iyar, they brought me and my wife Gittel bas Avraham Halevi and all our children to Auschwitz. There they separated me and my two older sons for labor and my wife and small children were sent to the gas chambers. Since there, there has been no sign of them – his sons testified to this as well.” (page 85).

The ledger, entitled: “Beis Din Protocol of Bergen-Belsen” was written on a booklet that originally belonged to the Nazis. The rabbanim, writing in their own handwriting in Yiddish, documented the names of survivors and the testimonies regarding the murder of their spouses in the course of the Holocaust.

The name of each Holocaust survivor was written on its own page of the ledger, followed by the testimony regarding the death of his or her spouse, signed by the witness(es). Underneath the testimony, the rabbanim wrote the heter for marriage based on that testimony, adding their signatures. According to the ledger, the Beis Din provided 85 heterim for men and women to remarry.

The rabbanim of the Beis Din were Rav Yoel Halperin (whose three children were murdered in the Holocaust), Rav Yisrael Aryeh Zalmanovitz, Rav Yissachar Berish Rubin and Rav Yitzchak Glickman, all of whom were Holocaust survivors. The rabbanim worked together with HaRav Shlomo Dovid Kahana, the Rav of Warsaw who had managed to escape Poland to Eretz Yisrael in 1940. He settled in Yerushalayim and became the Rav of the Churvah shul in the Old City – the last Rav to serve there before it was blown up by Jordanian soldiers on May 27, 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence.

HaRav Kahana, dubbed the “Av Ha’agunos,” was extremely active in releasing agunos. He formulated a basic “Heter Agunos” which could be used in most cases and collected testimonies to release agunos after the Holocaust. He later said that he provided heterim for around 3,000 agunos after the Holocaust and he never once was proved wrong by the appearance of a husband that was considered deceased.

In addition to the documentation of the p’sakim of the Beis Din, the ledger also documents detailed firsthand testimony on the atrocities committed by the Nazis, as well as testimonies of fictitious marriages performed in the ghettos in the futile hope they would prevent deportations to the camps.

“In 1942, in the month of Tammuz at around 4 p.m., they gathered many men from my city. The police and SS also entered my home and took my husband Yuda Mordechai ben Reuven Adler and brought him together [with the others they gathered] to the police and beat him severely. They brought him together with the other men outside the city and shot them. Then they brought them to the city and buried them in the city. They came to me to request his tallis in order to bury him in a tallis. Then I sat shiva on the instruction of the Beis Din.” (page 86).

The ledger will be sold by auction next month at the Kedem auction house at a starting price of $4,000.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)


  1. Please let me make it very clear in no uncertain terms whatsoever:- The tragedies extrapolated in this “Tragic Ledger Shel Mitzwah” are the sole and only true definition of the word “Agunah”.
    Please let me make it very clear in no uncertain terms whatsoever:- Any woman today who had a falling out with her husband and runs to a Jewish newspaper to list her as an “Agunah”, is nothing more than a “troublemaker” withholding visitation [i.e. making her children Agunim away from their Father] and probably demanding exorbitant sum of money from her husband.

  2. Yes, as we all know, men are never the problem in divorce cases
    (I’m sorry my esteemed colleague couldn’t make himself clearer).

  3. The beauty in this article is that it publicizes yidden being moser nefesh, and asking daas torah on how to restart their lives and families after facing actual horrors and death all around them, not for days, but for years! Survivors who were MOSER NEFESH to ask sheilos!!! To seek halachic and hashkafic guidance, when they had EVERY justifiable reason not to have to! I would love to get a Brocha from someone who’s name is on that list!
    Keeping to the analogy you made between those Agunos and the many Agunos or “Agunos” there are today… (and the number of both “Agunuos” and Agunos keep sadly growing)…. the true tragedy in our time, is that everyone points fingers at the other side, blames the other side for the woes and tragedies and hardships in their lives, uses the other side as ‘the’ reason that they cannot fulfill their personal obligations, makes rash decisions, and then blames the other side for the fallout of those rash decisions…. where is Daas Torah in all this???
    Because the greatest tragedy, greater than the Agunos, or the husbands burdened under exorbitant monetary obligations, is that the children become yesomim…. Yesomim to 2 LIVING parents…. During the holocaust when a Rebbe had snuck and managed to get a bit of Matza, there wasn’t enough, and while trying to figure out who should get a share, the Rebbe decided… it should be the young kinderlach… those that weren’t sent straight to the gas chambers… because they would remember this matza and the mesirus nefesh that went into the Zchus of the opportunity to take a bit of that little piece… They would forever remember the mesirus nefer, the sheilos, and the daas Torah that was ‘baked’ into that small piece of matzah…. ask sheilos! and ask talk to Hashem through it all! Let go, and let Hashem run the show! Hatzlacha!

  4. 146: You seem very convinced that the woman is always the “Troublemaker”. What about a situation where the husband demands that see be mevater on her Kesuba before he’ll give a get, chazal were mesaken Kesuba to protect women from husbands abandoning them! The husband isnt a “Troublemaker”, he’s a RASHA!
    I have no negius in this matter as B”H I have no relations that are involved in any such story,the ones that separated got divorced kdas vechedin.

  5. The real Agunos of the past WANTED THEIR HUSBANDS BACK! Unfortunately today the word Aguna has been misused by feminists to fein being a victim. Although real victims exist, the majority are not and the rabbis use the fake
    ” Aguna crisis ” as a way to force gittin against halocho.