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)