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From the Ghetto Fighters' House Archives: A dispensation for eating hametz during Passover in the Bergen-Belsen camp, 1944


One of the artifacts featured in the Haggadah exhibition at the Ghetto Fighters' House this Chol Hamoed is a dispensation for eating hametz during Passover at the Bergen-Belsen camp in 1944. Written in Hebrew, this makeshift permit is testimony to the spiritual and religious dilemmas faced by the Jewish inmates of the camp:


                                                “Before eating hametz , one must declare with inner devotion:

                                                ‘Our Father in Heaven, it is evident and known to Thee 

                                                 that it is our desire to do Thy will, and to celebrate

                                                 the festival of Passover by eating matzah and to observe

                                                 the prohibition on leavened bread.

                                                 But this is what causes our hearts to ache,

                                                 for the enslavement prevents us and we are in mortal danger…’”


The dispensation was written by Rabbi Aharon-Issaschar-Bernard Davids along other rabbis in the Bergen-Belsen camp. Rabbi Davids was the Chief Rabbi of Rotterdam, a brilliant scholar and inspiring orator. His texts on love of Zion, the People of Israel and the Land of Israel were publicized throughout his country.


After the Netherlands was conquered by the Germans, Rabbi Davids and his wife, Erica, nee Feuchtwang, daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Vienna, refused an offer of rescue by hiding, and insisted on remaining with the community, and was deported with them to the Westerbork camp and from there to Bergen-Belsen. The couple provided encouragement to their fellow inmates in the camp. The rabbi wrote a special blessing to be recited before eating unleavened bread during Passover, and the rebbetzin conducted a seder for women and children.


Rabbi Davids died two months before the camp’s liberation, and his son Elia died two days after the liberation. Rebbetzin Erica survived along with the couple’s two daughters, Mirjam and Shulamith.


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