Megillat Esther
Megillat EstherYossi Shachar, a grandson

Yaakov Schwarz, a Gerer hasid from Poland, was taken during the Holocaust to the labor camp Sonnenberg. He lost friends and relatives but did not lose his faith. On Hanukkah, after lighting candles with pieces of thread torn from clothes, his friends asked him what he thought about writing Megillat Esther. Yaakov did not believe he would survive until Purim but set about the task.

He remembered that there was some ink left from when he wrote inmates numbers on the planks on which they slept. He took a piece of straw from an old mattress and used it as a pen. He somehow managed to obtain a roll of paper from the ammunition plant where they worked.

After hours of backbreaking work and walking kilometers in the snow, he would return to the hut and write the Megilla on an improvised table he had prepared.

Before Purim Schwarz completed writing the Megilla and the news spread through the camp like wildfire. The excitement was palpable and the prisoners read in the evening and morning the age-old story of miraculous salvation.

"We couldn't bang when reading Haman, but we knew exactly who was Haman in our time," recalled Yaakov. "The Megillah was kept in a small metal box belonging to one of the prisoners."

Yaakov, who did not believe he would emerge alive to tell the tale, carved on the box for future generations "Prison Camp Sonnenberg 1945, Megillat Esther, written by Yaakov Schwarz of Lodz."

However Yaakov survived, immigrated to Israel on an illegal immigrant ship and established a family of his own. Every grandson of his who reached Bar Mitzvah received a decorative Megillah written by Yaakov himself.