The first Passover in post-Holocaust Ukraine

by Leah Rosenberg

It was almost Passover in 1945 as the horrors of the Holocaust were ending. Czernowitz, Ukraine had been liberated. How were the few Holocaust survivors in that town going to celebrate the upcoming holiday?

Making Matzah

Jew are determined. They are courageous. They are faithful to God. And that is why, despite the inconceivable suffering they endured during the Holocaust, they still wanted to celebrate Passover right after. They had almost nothing, but that does not stop a Jew from serving God. 

Rabbi Eliezer Zusha Portugal, the Skulener Rebbe, had survived the Nazi atrocities. As Passover was approaching, he was resolute and wanted to make premium handmade maztah. Having almost nothing but determination, he managed to produce a small amount of this special matzah.

One Matzah Each

The Rabbi gave one matzah each to the few survivors who remained. But one survivor asked for an extra one. Rabbi Hager of Vizhnitz would not accept just one. Rabbi Eliezer Zusha Portugal unselfishly gave him two, despite his hesitation. And in the end, Rabbi Eliezer Zusha Portugal had no matzah left for himself for the upcoming holiday.

Why did Rabbi Hager take two? It was not for selfish reasons. In fact, it was the opposite. Rabbi Hager’s son came to Rabbi Eliezer Zusha Portugal the day before Passover. The son gave him a matzah and explained that his father knew the Rabbi would give away all the matzahs to the few survivors, leaving none for himself. And that is why Rabbi Hager of Vizhnitz asked for two – so that he could hold on to one for the Rabbi.

Faith in God

Right after the Holocaust, when so many had so little, the Jewish People still took care of each other and guarded their faith in God. They used whatever resources they had to perform God’s commandments and keep His holidays.

A little known fact is that even in the most hellish of all circumstances, in Auschwitz, there was a quorum of starving men who observed the commandment and only ate Matzah during the entire Passover holiday.

The Jewish People never lose faith in God. And so, their story continues on…

Col. Kemp

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