Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5761 - November 8, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Borne Aloft On The Wings Of A Dove -- The Twentieth Yahrtzeit Of HaRav Yonah Mertzbach Zt'l And Sixty Two Years Since Kristallnacht

By Moshe Musman, based on a text by Rav Binyomin Hamburger and notes by Rav Aharon Shmuel Mertzbach

Introduction: Twilight

The opening decades of the twentieth century saw the emergence in Germany of a cadre of dedicated young rabbonim of native birth and training. They undertook the leadership of kehillos across their country, attempting to contain and reverse the ravages of many years of predominantly Reform influence on what in past centuries had been a glorious Jewish national center.

They did what they had to do. They could not shirk their responsibilities towards their fellow Jews in their own lands. However, it was basically a lost cause. For the most part, where there was no apostasy or assimilation, there was crass ignorance. Even the hope that remained for salvaging a remnant through elementary education, was soon snuffed out by the systematic persecution which began in the nineteen thirties, whose escalation led to the flight of the majority and which culminated in the extermination of those who remained.

The responsibility towards those who needed their spiritual guidance that had led these rabbonim to their posts, kept them there until the very end. When the ax finally fell, some succeeded miraculously in escaping straight away. Others stayed and suffered, escaping only later, while others perished.

Of necessity, their mission to their community was pushed aside in the struggle to survive and subsequently, to settle in new surroundings. After having reached safe havens, however, these individuals, living repositories of a heritage, must have asked themselves whether they would find any vehicle for perpetuating their community's uniqueness, or whether they were to be the last link in its chain?

In A New World

If we today, sixty years later, had to determine which of these possibilities has been realized, our response would have to be: hardly the first, yet certainly not the second.

A vehicle for perpetuating their community's uniqueness did not materialize because in order to be transmitted, a communal heritage needs both a leader who gives it over and a community to receive it. The distinctive character of a community that cannot bring forth its own spiritual leadership from within is at risk. On the other hand, however, great spiritual leaders may exist yet be unable to pass on their distinctive legacy because they have no clearly delineated community to receive it from them.

The leitmotif of the modern German Orthodox kehillos was participation in the general life of the surrounding society, while maintaining separation in spiritual affairs. In postwar New York and London, where the society was predominantly gentile, this situation could be -- and was -- duplicated. However, translated into the conditions of the developing new yishuv in Eretz Yisroel, where the entire society was Jewish, the customary pattern of life of the German Jews made them far less likely than others to form their own groups.

There was little chance of them creating distinct pockets of population, as other religious groups did, each identifying with its own leader or particular ideal, that gave it a distinct character and set it apart from others. (The agricultural settlements affiliated with P.A.I. that were founded and populated by German olim were not really exceptions to this rule. Although they certainly were distinct geographical communities, they did not remain so in a spiritual or cultural sense.)

Yet German Jewry has not disappeared into the Jewish melting pot. One of the means by which the scattered flock was reunited with its leaders was Yeshivas Kol Torah. Within the walls of this yeshiva gedolah, HaRav Mertzbach and his colleagues taught, guided and inspired new generations of bnei Torah, thereby transmitting their community's heritage to both those talmidim whose families had once been part of German communities, as well as to those whose roots lay in different communities.

HaRav Yonah Mertzbach zt'l, was the quintessential German rov, in whom true gadlus beTorah and deep emunah and bitochon were combined with righteousness, humility, a clear, straight mind and unswerving honesty. His broad, all encompassing Torah knowledge was put to good use.

Besides the daily shiurim which he delivered in Kol Torah, the breadth and depth of his Torah knowledge led to his becoming a central figure in the redaction of the Encyclopedia Talmudica. He was also renowned as an authority on the Hebrew grammar and language, and also on the authentic German minhagim. His faith in Hashem that sustained him through many trials and tribulations, was the source of a deep joy in Torah and mitzvos that was continually visible on him. He humbled himself before all other Torah sages, and they regarded him as a true tzaddik.

While the story of HaRav Mertzbach's life and character deserve to be considered at much greater length, we present here just one chapter of the story, an account of the final period in Germany and his arrival in Eretz Yisroel. It was a bleak period of transition that marked the midpoint in his life (chronologically as well as geographically) but there is much in it that is symbolic of his life as a whole. Although Darmstadt in Germany, where he was rov, and the budding new yishuv in Yerushalayim were two worlds, they both played a crucial role in both periods of his life. Throughout his years in Germany his abiding love of Eretz Yisroel expressed itself in many ways and, after having settled in Yerushalayim, he continued to experience the tragedy of his community, to the end of his days.

We present this article to mark HaRav Mertzbach's twentieth yahrtzeit, which was a month ago on the eighteenth of Tishrei 5761 (which was also three days before the hundredth anniversary of his birth). We are now closer however, to what might be considered the central theme of this particular article, the infamous Kristallnacht, which took place sixty-two years ago, on the sixteenth of Marcheshvon 5699. This account of the last years and the flight from Germany is interspersed with excerpts from a poem which HaRav Mertzbach composed in honor of the bar mitzva of his son, Aharon Shmuel, which was celebrated in Yerushalayim.

Beginning of the End

"There, far away, you were born, Aharon,/ There, in the diaspora, in the kingdom of the north./ There, for many generations, your parents' ancestors led lives of Torah, mitzvos and nobility of character, / There they acquired their portion in Olom Haboh,/ As they guarded what was holy, while living in an unclean land."

Jewish communal life in Germany, which was wonderfully organized with numerous institutions and endeavors, received a stunning blow when the Nazis assumed power in Germany on the third of Shevat 5693 (January 30, 1933).

To begin with, the new rulers kept their murderous ambitions in the background. They merely made arrests and established concentration (i.e. internment) camps. Darmstadt, the city where HaRav Mertzbach was then rav, was the first city in the country where the Nazis closed all Jewish shops for an entire day, on the twenty-eighth of March -- less than two months after seizing power. Their pretext was that the opening of the Jewish stores, "endangered communal order and tranquility."

Two days later, the authorities announced a boycott of all German Jews but this was rescinded after only two more days had elapsed because of the damage which the Germans themselves suffered as a result. From this time on though, the German Jews' status was eroded gradually and they were eventually deprived of their livelihoods.

The government's decrees grew more and more oppressive and the Jews felt the noose tightening. Often, the German chareidim had to fight a double battle for their survival: against the Nazi's undermining of their material well-being on the one side, and (even in those days) against the plots of the Reform establishment to capitalize on the upheavals in communal life in order to further uproot Torah and mitzvah observance.

One consequence of the Nazi ideology which called for the Jews to be ejected from the German nation, was the complete segregation between Jewish school children and their German counterparts. The authorities encouraged, and even contributed financially towards, the opening of separate Jewish schools.

This was the opportunity for HaRav Mertzbach to realize a long-dreamed-of ambition. He put a great deal of energy into setting up an excellent school. One example of his original approach to teaching secular disciplines are the mathematical exercises which he designed which are all based on various mitzvos, such as calculating the correct height of the mezuza on the doorpost.

The Reform community were also forced to send their children to a Jewish school. However in Darmstadt they were too few in number to open their own institution. The National Board of German Jews, an umbrella organization which represented the various streams of German Jewry to the gentile authorities, tried to solve the problem of the Reform Jewish pupils of Darmstadt by proposing the establishment of a United Jewish School for all Jewish pupils that would subsume HaRav Mertzbach's school. The Board controlled all the school budgets and financial pressure was thus brought to bear.

HaRav Mertzbach fought valiantly against this plan. He realized that changes would be made to the program of studies to bring it into line with the Reform ideology. The National Union of Orthodox Congregations lent him its support in his struggle and threatened to independently approach Jewish donors abroad who supported the Board and, if necessary, even to approach the Government.

As a result, the Reformers leaned towards accepting the Orthodox program of study and merely asked that the head of the school's board should be one of their people. Under no circumstances would HaRav Mertzbach agree to this however. Seeing that they would not achieve their designs in this way, the Reformers retracted their demands on the Orthodox school and opened a small institution of their own.

Recalling those times, HaRav Aharon Shmuel Mertzbach writes, "It is hard for anyone who did not experience it, to imagine how it was in the period after the Nazis assumed power. The tochochos of both Bechukosai and Ki Sovo were fulfilled: "In the evening you will say, `Would that it were morning,' and in the morning you will say, `Would that it were evening.' " There was constant fear, every minute, every hour and every day. Arrests, deportation to detention camps (they were not yet death camps), and more. German neighbors with whom one had lived for years, and even for generations, became persecutors and enemies. Warning signs, `No Entrance To Jews And Dogs' appeared in shops, on public transport and in public areas. There was open animosity on the part of municipal and general authorities, on the part of the Catholic priests and believers. There were threats wherever one turned and the main thing was the fear and dread of what lay ahead, without the slightest hope for better times."

Unswerving Faith Amid Growing Hardship

As well as the Jews who lived in Darmstadt, HaRav Mertzbach also tended to the smaller communities in the region. His son writes, "The Jews living in the outlying areas were in an even worse position than those in the cites. Many of them left the country and such communities closed down one after another." HaRav Mertzbach was involved in the halachic aspect of these changes and he often had to represent the kehillos before the authorities in making arrangements for the future care of empty botei knesses and Jewish graveyards. He circulated the relevant halochos of tefillah to those who remained in places where there was no longer a minyan.

"Students dropped out of universities, without any future, tradesmen and businessmen lost their livelihoods and had no present or future means of supporting themselves. Families were broken up and scattered to all ends of the earth as they emigrated to any country that opened its doors, if they found one."

HaRav Mertzbach's steadfast and perfect faith in Hakodosh Boruch Hu supported him through these and other difficult times. He was able to fire those around him from the torch of his own faith so that they too, trusted fully in Hashem. He viewed all the events of the times in the light of his faith and he would always point out that the hand that was dealing harshly with them was Hashem's. His belief in what had been foretold for Klal Yisroel was tangible, to the point where, for example, upon hearing about any war that broke out, he feared lest it was the war of Gog and Mogog. Concerning these times he wrote in his poem to his son,

"You know, my son, you know that this is a time of troubles,/ . . . such as has never been before./ Nobody knows what will happen yet today./ We hoped for rescue, our eyes were raised to Heaven,/ [For] people are worthless, there is no salvation in them./ The only one upon whom we can depend is our Father in Heaven./ Remember this all your life, Aharon,/ Place your trust in Hashem, not in hopes of what humans will do./ Whether your paths be illuminated, or whether in darkness,/ Trust in Hashem, direct your hopes to Him, with all your heart,/ [For] He is the one who shifts times, rolling darkness away before light./ He will not forsake his pious ones, He will guard their steps."

Devotion to Mitzvos

Among the Nazis' first decrees was the prohibition of slaughtering animals without first stunning them. Following this, the authorities invoked various legalities to prevent the import of kosher meat from outside Germany. They would not even permit shechitoh for the elderly and the sick. There was a real danger that tens of thousands of Jews would be unable to withstand the trial and would begin consuming neveilos and tereifos.

In these circumstances, a number of rabbonim wanted to find an halachic way to permit stunning, in order to prevent widespread transgression of Torah prohibitions. HaRav Mertzbach was one of the rabbonim who firmly opposed such a step.

In a teshuvah dealing with this question, he explains that every animal that has been stunned by the administration of an electric shock is halachically considered as being mortally ill (tereifoh) since it is no longer able to stand. There are varying opinions about whether it is possible to permit such an animal, even after shechitoh, on the basis of twitching that indicates that it was alive while being slaughtered. The teshuvah ends with the following declaration: "As the rov of a large area, which includes many villages . . . [my opinion is that] a permit to stun before slaughtering should not be mentioned, for general reasons. The many householders who have already eaten neveilos and tereifos, R'l, will not repent their ways, whereas each butcher and shochet will [now] allow himself to slaughter after stunning. If shechitoh will now be permitted everywhere, many upright people, who until now have eaten imported kosher meat, will buy meat anywhere, without checking up on the shochet and will end up eating neveilos and tereifos, for even accredited shochtim will not keep all the conditions upon which we make the hetter dependent. The hetter will be a bigger stumbling block than the one that exists as a result of the government's prohibition, for it will infiltrate homes where kashrus has been kept properly hitherto."

HaRav Mertzbach warns, "A further misfortune should be pointed out if we permit this. Everybody will say that there is a way to permit everything, if only the circumstances are pressing enough and the pressure is causing us harm. They will be lenient in every area of Torah and the rabbonim will no longer be able to stand against the people who want to act leniently in everything."

Later, HaRav Mertzbach discussed the importing of frozen meat with HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt'l, who permitted it, in view of the difficult situation. HaRav Mertzbach himself did not avail himself of this hetter and until they arrived in Eretz Yisroel some six years later, neither he nor his family tasted any meat.

Rav A. S. Mertzbach recalls that the troubles were not allowed to interfere with any observance of any other areas of halochoh at home either. Women for example, travelled long distances to reach mikvo'os.

In HaRav Mertzbach's home, the succah was erected on a balcony and a complaint was immediately registered for his "failure to comply with building plans." The Rov had to pay a fine and was required to take the succah down "within eight days" (in the words of the verdict). When the succah was put up the following year, an organized protest was held and the family took it down during the festival. They moved to a succah in the yard but were again disturbed. Subsequently, they made a succah in the enclosed courtyard of the beis haknesses, where they hosted other Jews who were unable to build succas of their own.

The Rov continued delivering all his regular droshos in the beis haknesses. However, out of fear of the Gestapo, his message sometimes had to be conveyed by means of allusion, through quotes, or translations of statements of Chazal. One especially memorable droshoh included the tefillah of King Chizkiyohu (Hashem Elokei Yisroel) and its German translation. Many of the listeners had tears in their eyes.


It is one of the unfathomable secrets of Hashgocho that the Nazi demon came to power and persecuted the Jews of Germany for six years before embarking on the wholesale destruction of the Jewish people. The steadily worsening state of affairs in their country led a majority of German Jews to leave in time, while the Jews of other countries in Western and Eastern Europe, who felt themselves to be in no immediate danger, stayed put until the foe alighted upon them swiftly and destroyed most of them, Hy'd.

Most of the Jews of Germany survived. Approximately three hundred thousand Jews left Germany before the war and another hundred and fifty thousand managed to escape after the war started, whereas approximately one hundred and sixty thousand perished in concentration and forced labor camps.

From Germany, Jews emigrated to a number of places, though on the whole it was hard to find countries of asylum. Some fled to the neighboring lands. Others crossed the oceans, to North or South America, Canada or Australia. The third and main emigration was aliya to Eretz Yisroel.

This generally required advance preparation. The youth, who were the first ones to leave for Eretz Yisroel, studied agriculture and modern Hebrew before they left. Most of the work in this area was conducted by the Zionists, who tried to attract Orthodox youth to their programs which were obviously not suited to the Torah youth.

The chareidi movements set up hachsharah farms for their youth to learn agriculture in preparation for moving to Eretz Yisroel. HaRav Mertzbach assisted Agudas Yisroel in setting up such a farm in Darmstadt and he acted as its spiritual leader. Half the day was devoted to limudei kodesh and the other half, to secular studies. HaRav Mertzbach was involved with the institution during the four years of its existence and he made a deep impression upon the many youngsters who studied there, many of whom remained firmly bound to him in the stormy years ahead.

A majority of the Jews of Darmstadt emigrated before the war broke out. Out of the three thousand souls that were living in the town when the Nazis came to power, some four hundred were murdered in the war. Parting from those who were leaving was hard, Rav A. S. Mertzbach recalls, but his father always took leave personally from those who were going and appealed to them to remain observant wherever they settled.

Many later told Rav A. S. Mertzbach that thanks to his father, they had remained steadfast in their faith and succeeded in raising their children to follow the Torah path in the Diaspora and in Eretz Yisroel.

One couple who was leaving for Eretz Yisroel came to the Rov, asking him to countersign the various forms they had filled in, to certify that all the details were correct. The couple were childless yet, when he came to the section that dealt with the number of children, and saw the word "None" that they had entered, he took his pen, crossed it out and in its place wrote, "Be'ezras Hashem there will be." The couple reached Eretz Yisroel, where they had a son, for whom HaRav Mertzbach later conducted kiddushin.

The Ax Falls

At the beginning of Marcheshvon 5699, the Nazi violence escalated. On erev Shabbos parshas Noach, thousands of Polish Jews who had immigrated to Germany were packed into rail cars and taken away from Germany. Children were snatched from their schools and fathers from their homes. Entire families were devastated. In many cases, it was the last time family members saw each other. The fields and villages along the border were full of stranded refugees who had neither money nor food, and to whom the Polish government refused entry. Many of them had been living in Germany for years but had never changed their nationality.

Although he was suffering from a broken foot at the time, HaRav Mertzbach went personally to those who had been expelled from Darmstadt, to bid them farewell and to offer them his encouragement. Despite his condition, he went to great lengths in order to gather contributions and extend aid to the refugees.

Less than a fortnight after the expulsion of Polish emigres, the cup of suffering passed to the German Jews themselves. From two o'clock a.m. on the night of the sixteenth of Marcheshvon, until four o'clock the following afternoon, at the word of the authorities, Nazi gangs went on the rampage throughout Germany, mercilessly destroying botei knesses and Jewish property (Kristallnacht). The rioters were equipped with pickaxes, shovels and truncheons. Those who had been assigned to deal with the synagogues carried kerosene and explosives as well. Cars, trucks and motorcycles brought the vandals to their destinations. They carried printed lists of the addresses of every shop, office and apartment that had been earmarked for sacking.

The sights of that day were appalling: botei knesses going up in flames while firemen made sure that the neighboring gentile homes would come to no harm; Jews boldly leaping into tongues of flame in order to rescue sifrei Torah; glass from shattered windowpanes covering the sidewalks; shops and homes that had been broken into and destroyed; a vicious and rabid mob, rejoicing at the sight of all the devastation and looting whatever they could lay their hands on; Jews being chased through the streets, beaten and stabbed and then being thrown into ambulances and police cars.

In his poem to his son, HaRav Mertzbach wrote,

"Hashem's anger burned because of our sins,/ He set the fire alight and will surely pay./ You saw the flames that burned the miniature sanctuary./ You saw the holy nation imprisoned and looted./ You saw how they were scattered to all corners of the earth,/ Your friends, our friends, the Jewish communities."

Miracles Amid Mayhem

On that bitter morning, a Thursday, HaRav Mertzbach was making his way to the beis haknesses for shacharis. News had reached them the previous evening of communities that were being attacked. As a precaution, all the entrances to the beis haknesses had been securely locked and a number of sifrei Torah had been put in a metal box in the kehilloh's office. The Nazis however, woke up the shammesh and demanded the key of the beis haknesses so that they could enter to ransack it.

The night before, realizing that he was in danger of being arrested, HaRav Mertzbach had asked his son to copy the notes of HaRav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman zt'l, which he had in the margins of his Shas, into a small notebook which he intended to take along with him. His wife packed a valise with warm clothing.

Before arriving, the Rov was met by a Jew who warned him not to continue lest he find himself in the lion's jaws. The Nazis were setting fire to the beis haknesses and to the other neighboring communal buildings and were arresting the men. HaRav Mertzbach was not to be dissuaded. He sent his children who were accompanying him straight home and he hurried on. An apartment block stood in the courtyard of the beis haknesses. It housed the shammesh of the community and several elderly and poor individuals, as well as the community's mikveh and the dormitory for the youth of the hachsharah.

Upon his arrival, HaRav Mertzbach saw that tongues of flame were already licking the building. The fire department stood guard to make sure that the fire did not spread to the neighboring gasoline station. He learned that there were still sifrei Torah inside the beis haknesses which the Nazis would not allow to be saved. He also heard that all the inhabitants of the nearby apartments had left the building, with the exception of one blind old lady who was still trapped inside.

He begged the S.S. officer who was in charge of the burning of the shul to allow the rescue of the sifrei Torah and of the old lady. The officer agreed to let the hachsharah members go in and bring out the sifrei Torah and HaRav Mertzbach to take the lady to safety, on condition that he present himself immediately afterwards before the Gestapo (the Nazi secret police). HaRav Mertzbach took the old lady to one of the Jewish homes and stayed there himself, sitting and learning Torah, for he didn't dare go back to turn himself in. A few hours later, the Nazis, who were combing the area in search of Jewish men, arrived at the house where he was hiding. They searched each room but somehow missed the door to the room where HaRav Mertzbach was.

HaRav Mertzbach spent the rest of that day driving around town in a taxi to avoid being caught. Returning to his home after dark that evening, he remained in hiding and did not leave his home. His rebbetzin had to make all the preparations for the family's escape, which was now unavoidable.

When the family needed an exit permit, there was no choice but for the Rov himself to go to the Gestapo. There he met the officer who had supervised the burning of the beis haknesses. The Nazi informed HaRav Mertzbach that for having disobeyed an order of the Gestapo he was liable for the death penalty, however, a special order had been given by some higher authority that his life be spared and that he be allowed to leave Germany. The reason for this `order,' from the Germans' point of view, remained forever a puzzle to HaRav Mertzbach.

In the days that followed, many family heads and youths were arrested and sent to Dachau and Buchenwald. The remaining family members were left destitute. The encouragement and material support which both the Rov and his rebbetzin extended to these families were incredible. A short time later, jars containing the ashes of the deportees began to arrive from the camps and their families were left to mourn their bereavement and orphanhood. The oppressors even demanded payment for the cremations and the shipment of the remains!

"Of course, what happened then [in Germany] did not come close to what the evildoers perpetrated during the Holocaust in Eastern Europe," writes Rav A. S. Mertzbach. "In Germany itself, they `maintained law and order.' The shock was greater though, since the Jews of Germany had been part of their country's economic life, its trade, its science and its culture. All of a sudden, everything stopped and their world lay in ruins around them. The situation of the irreligious Jews was especially difficult. There was a wave of suicides and even of teshuvah. All however mocked the families of those who had converted or intermarried, for they were also trapped by the evil decrees."


That night is commonly referred to as Kristallnacht. Its Hebrew translation is Leil Habedolach, and it is usually rendered into English as The Night Of Broken Glass. Few are aware, however, that this name was an abbreviation of the name which the Nazis themselves gave to the night of destruction. They called it Reichs Kristallnacht, i.e. Kristallnacht of the Reich. As such, that name should be shunned for use by Jews. HaRav Mertzbach, who bore the scars of that night with him forever, was shocked whenever he heard Jews innocently using that name.

The chareidi historian Rabbi Betzalel Landau once used the name in an article. Writing just after HaRav Mertzbach's petirah, he recalled the Rov's response. "Just a year ago, I received a postcard upon which he criticized my using the name Leil Habedolach . . . because that name was coined by the Nazis as an allusion to the extensive property of the Jews, who used crystal (bedolach) vessels in their homes. The burning of the botei knesses served as a signal that the looting and murder that accompanied it were sanctioned . . . "

HaRav Mertzbach found an authentically Jewish way of commemorating the day. While he taught in Kol Torah, he introduced the custom into the yeshiva of saying chapter 80 of Tehillim on the night of the sixteenth of Marcheshvon, after ma'ariv. HaRav Mertzbach himself would fast on that day and go to the Kosel Hama'arovi and pray there.

In his first years in Eretz Yisroel, he would deliver a hesped that day first in Beis Haknesses Chorev in Rechavia and then in Kol Torah. A moving account of the electrifying hesped which he gave the first year, appeared in the chareidi newspaper Kol Yisroel.


While it was now perfectly clear that the family could no longer remain in Germany, leaving behind what remained of his kehilloh was not an easy step. Matters were further complicated by the fact that HaRav Mertzbach had not yet been successful in obtaining the necessary certificates for entry into Eretz Yisroel, which was where he really wanted to go, while visas had arrived for the family to travel to the United States, where he had been offered a well-paying position.

He had always borne a special love for Eretz Yisroel. Every visitor and every piece of news from there was a special event in HaRav Mertzbach's household. He had worked for Agudas Yisroel's Keren Hayishuv. He was thus now assailed by a fierce inner battle.

Could he abandon his community at such a time? On the other hand, could he abandon his family and five small children in order to stand by a community that was falling apart anyway? And if they left, where should they go? To America, whose gates were open to them but where spiritual dangers awaited the children?

Ultimately, the certificates for Eretz Yisroel arrived and the choice was made. To the end of his life however, HaRav Mertzbach bore the tragedy of German Jewry, and of his own kehilloh on his heart. He gave these feelings expression in his poem to his son.

"I will sing today the song of my kehilloh./ How goodly were its tents, extending like rivers./ Great was its faith, many were the friends./ There you acquired the beginning of wisdom and fear of Heaven./ Therefore, Aharon, remember it forever."

Rav A. S. Mertzbach recalls, "When we made aliya, we were asked by the Gestapo to provide them with a list of the sifrei kodesh which we planned to take out of the country. Since we were afraid that those seforim towards which they bore hatred would be confiscated, we arranged the seforim according to "subjects" and translated their titles into German. For example, under the heading "Biology" were Pnei Yehoshua and Atzmos Yosef. Under "Cookery," Shulchan Oruch and so on. It was very strange to read the titles of these sifrei kodesh in German translation."

Four months after Kristallnacht, the family arrived in Eretz Yisroel on Shushan Purim 5699 (1939), after a journey full of tribulations. Every year at the Purim seudoh, on the anniversary of the family's arrival in Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Mertzbach would make a brochoh over a special cup of wine and offer praises and thanks to Hashem.

From the day he arrived in Eretz Yisroel, he refused to leave it, even when asked by the yeshiva and by his own talmidim to do so. He bore Yerushalayim a special love and he viewed leaving it as suffering a spiritual decline.

He also expressed his thanks to Hakodosh Boruch Hu in his poem.

"What shall I give to Hashem in return for all His kind dealings with me?/ I will thank Him for his kindness all my days./ He brought us out whole from the lions' den,/ And placed us in Eretz Tzvi, because of our ancestors' righteousness./ I am small compared to the kindness which You, Hashem have done for me,/ Thank Him forever, do not forget this my son."


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