An international project enabling Holocaust survivors to complete a Torah scroll saved from the Nazis will be launched at the Foreign Office later this month.
Warsaw University students discovered the partial scroll last year when going door-to-door to learn about the history of areas whose Jewish populations were decimated by the Nazis during the Second World War.
Kazimierz Wróblewski, a shepherd they encountered, recalled how a rabbi had begged his father to take in the precious item before being deported to Treblinka, where he died.
The scroll was left under the sofa and more than half of it was used for household chores, such as rags, when they fell on hard times under communism, according to Jonny Daniels, founder of From the Depths, with whom the students were volunteering.
But, at an event hosted by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, a group of Holocaust survivors will now be the first to write letters into the scroll as part of an ambitious restoration campaign by From the Depths.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “The Holocaust is the most shameful chapter in human history but the only way to try to prevent such monstrosities from occurring ever again is through retelling stories that many of us will never want to hear. It is our collective responsibility to educate future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust and never to forget why we need to challenge and combat the forces of hate.
“But out of all the darkness of the Holocaust there are also glimmers of light. The Torah that From the Depths has so carefully restored and the story behind it is worth celebrating. Worth celebrating because this was a Torah that was torn apart and hidden to avoid destruction during the Holocaust. Now, 70 years later, it will become whole again – to be used and cherished by future generations of Jewish people.”
Survivors across the United States and in countries including France, Brazil and Argentina will later have an opportunity to contribute before the scroll is completed in Israel and arrives at its new home at the Knesset synagogue. “Rather than simply bury this Holy Torah scroll, From the Depths will bring it back to life,” Jonny Daniels said.
“By bringing this Torah back to life, we are fulfilling the dying wish of the rabbi that it be read from again.” He added: “As fewer survivors are able to speak directly to the next generation about the horrors of the Nazi era in the coming years, it is partly through unique artefacts such as these that the young generation will be able to connect.”
The event is expected to be attended by the Polish Chief Rabbi and will be backed by the Holocaust Educational Trust.