In the ark of the main Sanctuary in Temple Emanu-El, lives an incredibly special Sefer Torah rescued during the Holocaust. This Torah MST#1116 Torah was written over 200 years ago c.1800. It came from the town of Kladno in Bohemia.
During the Holocaust, the Nazis began looting collections and synagogues for Judaica objects and Jewish holy books, including Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls). They planned to display these stolen objects in a Museum of the Extinct Race.
Both the Jewish people and these sacred objects survived the Nazis’ reign of terror. After the end of WWII, 1,564 of the Torah scrolls that had been taken between 1939 and 1945 from Jewish communities in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia were the last survivors of their home communities. Without communities to return to, these abandoned Sifrei Torah were collected in Prague, and protected by the Czech government for many years. On 7 February 1964, Westminster Synagogue in London acquired the scrolls, with the help of Artia (the Czech state cultural agency). Since then, the Westminster Synagogue, together with its Memorial Scrolls Trust, have placed these Sifrei Torah in thriving Jewish communities around the world as reminders of this dark chapter of our shared past.
Each Memorial Scroll is a messenger from a community that was lost, but does not deserve to be forgotten.
“Important for the war economy, the industrial city of Kladno was – alongside Prague, Brno and Pilsen – among the first regions of the Protectorate to expel their Jewish inhabitants. The assembly point in Kladno was located in the building of the former Marie Egemová Institute for Teachers. It was the nearest of all the assembly points to the Terezín ghetto. Many of the deportees knew where the town of Terezín was situated and what it was like, as they used to live there; they had been forced to leave Terezín in the summer of 1941, only to be re-deported there at the beginning of 1942. The Jewish Religious Community of Kladno began preparations for the organization of transports to the Terezín ghetto on 12 February 1942. The deportees’ luggage was taken to the former Sokol building in Kladno. Jews from the Kladno area were instructed to arrive at the assembly point between 9 and 10 in the morning or, at the latest, by 3 in the afternoon on their summons date. They were taken in trucks from the assembly point to the nearby siding of the Kladno–Nučice Railway and were then transported in freight cars to the ghetto.
Two transports (designated by the letters Y and Z) were dispatched on 22 and 26 February 1942. They took away 1,631 deportees, of whom only 123 lived to see the liberation.”