Editor's Note: This story is taken from a small pamphlet
published some years ago by the author. In the words of one
commentator, this and the other stories show clearly "how
Jewish spirituality acted as a counterforce to Nazi
bestiality." Writing in the Jewish Observer, Rabbi
Joseph Elias said the stories are written from the "inside"
of the Jew, making them more authentic.
In our day they give us some perspective on the suffering
our people has known, and the example set by our fathers that
should inspire us to teshuvoh sheleimoh. There is no
doubt that saying the Lamnatzei'ach seven times before
blowing the Shofar will be quite a different experience for
anyone who has read this moving story.
To the memory of the martyrs of Auschwitz
Few New Year's Days, few Rosh Hashonohs, such as this one
have been recorded in history.
The Jew who found a Shofar -- nobody knew where -- and held
it in his hand, ran almost frenziedly from one group to the
other between the barracks. He blew the Shofar as prescribed
in the rules, with the teki'os, shevorim, teru'os.
Never has such a tearful sound reached the ears of man. The
sound of the Shofar rose towards the skies weeping, begging
for forgiveness, demanding salvation.
And the man who had, by some miracle, obtained a Shofar, blew
it some fifty times, sending its mournful message to the four
winds to help his brethren on this memorable New Year's Day
to fulfill, on Rosh Hashonoh, the command to blow the
Only a few days before, the S.S. executioners had invented a
new game to amuse themselves. The knowledge that they could
dip their hands at pleasure into the blood of the herds of
sheep brought to this slaughterhouse, was constant fuel to
their vile, perverted, inhuman imagination. They surpassed
one another in devising new and more original diversions.
One of these Prussian brutes, for instance, conceived the
idea of piling up heaps of cabbage and potato peelings
approximately a hundred yards one from the other.
"Los!" he yelled. "Run Jews, there's your slop."
Forgetting the devilish purpose behind these daily brain-
waves, the unfortunate, starving herd ran head over heels
toward the life-giving garbage.
"Stop, my brethren, stop. Can't you see that you are running
But it is too late. The faces of the executioners break into
satanic grins, bullets burst from the machine gun. Those who
ran so desperately to prolong their lives lie dead in a
bloody heap. The master marksmen had found their target.
The witness who has survived the torments of this hell,
describes innumerable such bestial murders committed for the
mere pleasure of killing, in those days of horror.
The massacre of the children, planned for the day of Rosh
Hashonoh, was also the fruit of the playful ideas conceived
in the diseased minds of those sickly sentimental and
inhumanly cruel adherents of Wotan. The S.S. had decided that
there were too many Jewish children between the ages of
twelve and fifteen still alive.
"It is time to thin out the brood," the commander of the
murderers had decreed.
And on a hot, sunny afternoon the army of trembling children,
clad in rough striped prison uniforms, was ordered to march
past two stakes stuck into the ground. One was shorter, the
other taller, approximately 130- 140 centimeters high. The
child whose head reached the top of the taller stake was
safe. The smaller children were destined for the gas
Devilish playfulness! Horrible games! One thousand two
hundred beloved Jewish child-martyrs. Your little heads did
not reach the top of the stake, not even when you stood on
tiptoe. My tears flow eternally at the memory of your tragic
fate. May the Creator revenge your death and that of the
other six million martyrs!
We know, yes we know, that most of us do not achieve the
perfection of humanity; how then can we expect dignified,
human behavior from the unfortunate victims of those dreadful
days that deprived even the strongest of their sober
judgment? The frames of life fell asunder and so did the
souls. Life was the cheapest commodity of all. Is it then
surprising that few could resist the desire to live, only to
live, even at the price of the blood of others!
Judge not, brother. Who knows what you would have done in my
place, what you would have done when you saw your child whom
you had saved in the face of a thousand perils, march toward
the gas chamber. There, hidden among your ragged clothes, are
the torn banknotes, the gold, the dollars for which you once
toiled until you dropped with fatigue. All the treasures of
the world you would give to save your child!
I ask you, could you have resisted the temptation, the sin?
For the Torah considers it sin to save a soul at the price of
Because this is what happened. For each child claimed back
from death in exchange for a small fortune, another was
substituted. For each child returned to his parents, the
devils took one of the "saved" to make up the number.
And there were those who considered this permissible!
A man from Vac, a pious, G-d-fearing man approached his rabbi
"Rabbi, here is money, hidden under my shirt. May I offer it
to the S.S. guard to save my only child whom I have so often
brought back from the brink of death?"
The father and the rabbi wept bitterly together but the rabbi
made no reply.
The father took the rabbi's silence as a negative answer; if
the rabbi says nothing, then this is the Command of the
Torah. And the tormented little Jew from Vac drew himself up
proudly like Hannah, the martyr of Maccabean times who sent
seven of her children bravely to death, and said:
"Rabbi, I am happy that my son will die according to the
Command of the Torah."
But this was not the only din Torah of the rabbi who
incidentally, was the man who had blown the Shofar.
A little boy of about thirteen came to speak to him, a well-
developed, tall boy, who had attained the required size and
thus been saved. In tears he told the rabbi that his best
friend, a boy older than he but shorter, was now among the
condemned. That boy had been his teacher, his "bocher"
in the Yeshiva. His name was Mordche, he was a talmid
chochom, and his death would be a terrible loss. "Mordche
could grow into a great man," he repeated stubbornly. "He is
a much better scholar than I and I would gladly give my life
for him." The rabbi asked the little boy to desist. "Our laws
do not allow that one should give up his life for
"Tell me at least, rabbi, that this would not be considered
suicide up There."
The rabbi could no longer contain himself; he broke into
"No, my sweet child, I cannot tell you that."
The day of Rosh Hashana arrived. Nature wrapped itself into a
grey mist, the color of lead. Up There in heaven the fate of
the world and of the beloved people, Israel, was again being
decided. What shall become of us, our Father, our King, if
you have no mercy on us? Shall not one of the custodians of
Your Name survive? And yet Your children obey Your command
even in the darkest depths of hell.
Ever since dawn, the rabbi had kept walking from one group to
another. Loudly he recited the benediction and the people
resorted to their last stores of moral strength and answered,
"Amen." They closed their eyes tightly to concentrate
on the course of the Shofar's sound with the whole of their
thoughts. Even their breathing was but a desperate prayer.
The children in the special barrack, the death-house, heard
the sound of the Shofar. They sent word that they too wanted
to fulfill the command of the Creator for the last time. Let
the rabbi come to them with the Shofar.
Those outside, the adults, were divided in their opinions
about this. Entering the death-house involved terrible
danger. The transportation of the condemned to the
crematorium was planned for the evening hours. A bell would
ring when the barrack doors closed for the last time. It was
growing late. To go in there required real fortitude. But the
rabbi who blew the Shofar did not hesitate. He stole into the
The one thousand and two hundred children sat on the floor of
the barrack in a closely-knit circle. Their faces burned with
the fire of self-sacrifice as if the souls of the ten
Tanaitic martyrs had come to life in them, as they prepared
to hand themselves to their executioners. Their hearts beat
high, overflowing with the emotions that had filled the
hearts of martyrs in all times. They were ready to give their
lives for their Creator, for Kiddush Hashem, for the
Sanctification of the Holy Name.
The rabbi's face turned ashen when he laid his eyes on the
sacred assembly prepared for death. Words stuck in his
throat, his heart almost stopped beating and his soul swelled
with sentiments that one experiences but once in a
"Rabbi, speak to us before blowing the Shofar," the boys
And the rabbi obeyed. He spoke words that had never left his
lips, either before or since. He spoke of the greatness of
the martyrs and recalled their names and deeds through the
ages. Then he concluded: "And yet, my children, trust the
Father Eternal, because man must hope for delivery even with
the knife at his throat."
There are no words to describe the solemnity of that moment,
the burning eyes of the children, their transfigured
expression as they took upon themselves the Creator's yoke,
the duty of martyrdom, for the Glory of His Sacred Name.
And they began to sing the Psalm: Lamnatzei'ach. This
song now soared to such heights -- never had it expressed
the Jewish fate, the tragedy of this most persecuted, yet
greatest people of the earth, with such unbearable beauty
But none of the children felt that their fate was tragic.
Is it a tragedy to ascend the loftiest peak of heroism and
perfection at an innocent age, to become purified of the
filth of all ages for the Jewish ideal?
After the blowing of the Shofar, the Jewish children
surrounded the rabbi. There stood Mordche, the talmid
chochom, who had apparently been elected leader by the
children. Mordche raised his voice in the deep silence:
"We children, who are going to our deaths and giving our
lives for our Creator, thank the rabbi for having come to us
and made it possible for us to perform this last commandment.
We beg the Eternal Father to permit him and his children to
survive these horrors."
"Amen," one thousand and two hundred voices
The time had come for the rabbi to leave. No sooner had he
gone through the door of the barrack than the alarm bell
began to ring. All entrances to the death-house were
Later, all could hear the patter of the children's feet, the
glorious tread of the one thousand and two hundred martyrs on
the road to immortality.
About The Author
M. D. Weinstock was born in Hungary 1922 and received both
a yeshiva and higher secular education. He survived the
Holocaust in a Forced Labor Camp, but lost most of his family
to Nazi brutality. M. D. Weinstock was editor and writer of
several Orthodox Jewish papers in Hungarian from 1953-1979 in