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The Artifacts Collection

Artifacts in the Holocaust History Museum

Humiliation and Abuse: Artifacts made from Desecrated Torah Scrolls

  • The letter sent by a Nazi party member to the owners of a leather goods factory offering parchment as raw material. Attached is a snipped piece of a Torah scroll as a sample
  • A handbag made from the parchment of a Torah scroll, Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Dr. M. Kowalski, San Francisco, USA
  • A toy drum found in Poland at the end of the war, made from the parchment of a Torah scroll, Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Esther Sprung, Ramat Gan
  • Insoles cut from the parchment of a Torah scroll found in the shoes of a German officer in Italy. Remarkably, one of the insoles is cut from the portion of the text quoting the Ten Commandments. Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Yeshaya Taub, Victoria, Australia
  • A wallet made from the parchment of a Torah scroll, Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Dr. Lazlo Hermann, Gheorgheni, Romania

With the onset of the Nazi occupation, humiliation and abuse of the Jews and their holy artifacts commenced. As the Nazis occupied each new territory, they began by destroying synagogues and desecrating holy books. Before long the degradation and destruction included locally instigated acts of wanton destruction and looting.

The local population realized that Torah scrolls provided raw material for making purses, wallets, musical instruments and other leather products, but these were not only local manifestations of spontaneous theft. The Nazis efficiently organized the “industrialization” of this practice, which included the transformation of Torah scrolls into other items. In the Yad Vashem Collection, there is a letter from the owner of a paper goods factory who offered Torah scroll parchments as raw material. He sent a small Torah scroll sample, and wrote the following to the manager of a purse and leather goods plant:

“A Nazi party office has given me a large quantity of parchment, instructing me to store it . . . This merchandise is genuine... Although it has writing on one side, we have experimented and determined that the writing can be washed off… If you are interested in purchasing this parchment, please let me know. I currently have about 600-700 kg in stock.”
Augsburg, Germany, August 13, 1940

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Margaret Rosenthal, Elmhurst, N.Y., USA

The Yad Vashem Collection contains many artifacts that testify to the use made of desecrated Torah scrolls, including shoe soles, musical instruments, purses, wallets and paintings.

Additional artifacts in the Holocaust History Museum