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Plundered Torah Finials Restored   |   A Shattered World

A pair of Silver Torah finials that were plundered during the Kristallnacht pogrom and returned after 60 years to the descendants of Berta and Jacob Weinschenk whose name is inscribed on the stem: "donated by Jakob & Berta Weinschenk"

A pair of silver Torah finials with the inscription: “Donated by Jakob and Bertha Weinschenk” that were stolen during the Kristallnacht pogrom and returned after 60 years to their descendants A pair of silver Torah finials with the inscription: “Donated by Jakob and Bertha Weinschenk” that were stolen during the Kristallnacht pogrom and returned after 60 years to their descendants
Bertha WeinschenkBertha Weinschenk

The Torah finials were originally donated to the orthodox synagogue on Essenwein Street in Nuremberg, Germany by Bertha née Gutman and her husband Jakob Weinschenk of Windsbach.  The Weinschenks, who had helped found the synagogue, donated the pair of finials inscribed with their names in the early 1900s.

Bertha and Jakob had two daughters, Pauline and Chana.  In 1927, Chana married Jacob Bühler, and they had two children, Ilse and Ernst.  In October 1938, Jacob Bühler managed to leave Germany for America, avoiding by one month the traumatic experiences of the Kristallnacht pogrom and the plundering and destruction of the synagogue on Essenwein St., including the disappearance of the Torah finials that Bertha and Jakob had so lovingly donated.

From the United States, Jacob Bühler organized emigration permits for his wife and children, who were living in Nuremberg together with Bertha and Jakob at the time. Jacob was unable to obtain emigration permits for his parents-in-law, and on 10 September 1942, they were deported from Nuremberg to Theresienstadt.  Jakob Weinschenk perished in Theresienstadt on the 1st of March, 1943. Bertha, who celebrated her 75th birthday in Theresienstadt, (see accompanying photo), survived the Shoah.  Bertha’s testimony relates that when a Nazi officer in Theresienstadt asked for volunteers to go by train to Switzerland, she and the others presumed it was yet another ruse by the Nazis, but that she volunteered anyway. To her surprise, in February 1945 the train arrived in St. Gallen, Switzerland and Bertha went on to be reunited with her daughter in the United States. Her elder daughter, Pauline, who was living in France, survived the war with her son Herbert.  Pauline’s other son Martin was murdered in Auschwitz in 1942.

In 2003, Ralf Rossmeisel, a German researcher who had received the Torah finials from a house-clearing contractor, discovered that the finials had been preserved by a German woman who worked in a smelting plant in Fuerth. Rossmeissel managed to track down the descendants of Bertha and Jakob Weinschenk, and returned the Torah finials to the Buehler and Simkowitz families. After using the finials at many religious ceremonies in the United States, the families eventually decided to donate them to the Synagogue in Yad Vashem where they would serve as a living tribute to the continuity of Jewish life despite the Holocaust.

Gift of the Simkovitz and Buehler families, Israel and the United states

Detail of the German inscription on the Torah finials: “Gestiftet von (Donated by) Jakob & Bertha Weinschenk Detail of the German inscription on the Torah finials: “Gestiftet von (Donated by) Jakob & Bertha Weinschenk

Diary that Bertha Weinschenk wrote in Switzerland recording her experiences in Theresienstadt Diary that Bertha Weinschenk wrote in Switzerland recording her experiences in Theresienstadt

Song composed in Theresienstadt for Bertha Weinschenk’s 75th birthday on 11 May, 1944 Song composed in Theresienstadt for Bertha Weinschenk’s 75th birthday on 11 May, 1944

Photos of Berta Weinschenk’s grandparents, Nachum and Fanny Gutman. Bertha kept the photos in the soles of her shoes while she was imprisoned in Theresienstadt Photos of Berta Weinschenk’s grandparents, Nachum and Fanny Gutman

Group photo of the survivors of Theresienstadt who were miraculously sent to Switzerland. Hotel Haldemand-Lausanne, February 1945 Group photo of the survivors of Theresienstadt who were miraculously sent to Switzerland

Bertha Weinschenk sitting on a park bench with two other survivors. Lausanne Switzerland, February 1945 Bertha Weinschenk sitting on a park bench with two other survivors