Friday December 11 1931 was the eighth and final night of Chanukkah (1st of Tevet, 5692), and Rabbi Akiva Boruch Posner, Doctor of Philosophy from Halle-Wittenberg University, struck a match and lit the Menorah. His home was across the way from the headquarters of the local Nazi Party. Rabbi Posner’s wife, Rachel, took a photo of the view from her window. When the film had been processed and returned to her in early 1931, she wrote a few lines in German on the back.
“Chanukah, 5692. ‘Judea dies’, thus says the banner. ‘Judea will live forever’, thus respond the lights.”
Three years later, the Posners arrived to Palestine, what they and many other Jews who fled the Nazis termed Eretz Israel, a divine warrant for the Holy Land. The photograph that echoes to our age was, along with the Menorah, donated to the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum by Yehudah Mansbuch, Rachel and Akiva’s grandson. He tells the story:
“It was on a Friday afternoon right before Shabbat that this photo was taken. My grandmother realized that this was a historic photo, and she wrote on the back of the photo that ‘their flag wishes to see the death of Judah, but Judah will always survive, and our light will outlast their flag.’ My grandfather, the rabbi of the Kiel community, was making many speeches, both to Jews and Germans. To the Germans he warned that the road they were embarking on was not good for Jews or Germans, and to the Jews he warned that something terrible was brewing, and they would do well to leave Germany. My grandfather fled Germany in 1933, and moved to Israel. His community came to the train station to see him off, and before departed he urged his people to flee Germany while there’s still time.”
Finally, a note on the oldest story:
“Other small ‘races’ have come from unpromising and hazardous beginnings to achieve great things—no Roman would have believed that the brutish inhabitants of the British Isles could ever amount to much – and other small ‘races’, too, like Gypsies and Armenians, have outlived determined attempts to eradicate and exterminate them. But there is something about the persistence, both of the Jews and their persecutors, that does seem to merit a museum of its own.”
— Christopher Hitchens (Hitch-22: A Memoir)
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