From Nazi Germany to Beit Shemesh: The Mansbach Chanukiyah
Each year before Chanukah, the Mansbach family drops by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum to pick up the family Chanukiyah (Chanukah Menorah) – an item rich with history, symbolism, and sentimental value. Because, family member Yehuda Mansbach told Israel National News in an interview, “this Chanukiyah is the only remaining memory of the congregation my Grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Akiva Baruch Pozner, led before escaping Germany.”
The photo attached tells much of that history, says Mansbach, a resident of Beit Shemesh. “In this photo you see the Chanukiyah stationed at a window, with a Nazi flag across the street.” The photo was taken in 1931, says Mansbach, long before the Nazis came to power. But, as it happened, the house of Rabbi Posner, who led the community of Kiel in Germany, was right across the street from the local headquarters of the Nazi Party.
“It was on a Friday afternoon right before Shabbat that this photo was taken,” says Mansbach. “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.'”
As Rabbi of the Kiel community, says Mansbach, Rabbi Posner did everything he could to encourage Jews to escape Germany. “Already in 1933, he 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.” Indeed, Mansbach says, many did leave, and by the time the Nazis came to power, some half of the congregation had already emigrated, mostly to the U.S. and the Land of Israel.
The Chanukiyah made it to Israel as well, and ended up in Yad Vashem. But each year they make sure to “borrow” if for their family Chanukah celebration. “My grandparents understood what was going to happen, and this Chanukiyah is a message to us – and to Jews in the Diaspora today – as well. It tells them to come to the Land of Israel now, before it's too late. No one knows what will be tomorrow.”