This Torah scroll from a Leipzig synagogue was saved from destruction on Kristallnacht. The scroll was found relatively unscathed sixty years after the widespread Nazi-instigated destruction of synagogues all over Germany and Austria on the night of November 9, 1938. It was given to Yad Vashem by the Association of Leipzig Jews in Israel.
The story of the scroll and its rescue unfolded in stages, beginning with the discovery of the scroll in 1998. The library at the University of Leipzig, which had been severely damaged by the WWII Allied bombings, was renovated, exposing Torah scrolls, in an advanced state of disintegration, together with a number of rollers that had been hidden between the beams of the library roof. Circumstances clearly indicated that the scrolls were deliberately hidden, and therefore this would have had to have been carried out during the Nazi period. However, not only was there no clue as to who had been responsible for the concealment, it was also unclear from where the scrolls had been taken.
The Torah scrolls were in an advanced stage of decay due to their prolonged stay in damp and humid conditions. The Association of Leipzig Jews in Israel was informed of the discovery and requested that in accordance with the Jewish custom of burying holy books in a Jewish cemetery, that the Torah scrolls be sent to Israel for burial.
A short time after the story was published in the Leipzig community bulletin, the Association’s secretariat in Tel Aviv received a letter from a Canadian citizen, which solved in part the mystery of the scrolls.
In the letter, Issac Israel explained that his father, Chaim (who perished in the Holocaust) told him that on the morning of November 9, 1938, a messenger from the post office came to advise him that there was a call for him at the telephone exchange. When he arrived at the exchange, an anonymous caller from Stuttgart advised the father that violence was planned to take place in every synagogue throughout Germany. He went to his synagogue, the Broder Schul (on Kailestrasse) and it was decided to remove a collection of a dozen scrolls from the synagogue and transfer them to a building belonging to the JNF, a building defined as the property of British subjects. One scroll was to remain in the synagogue for prayers.
That very night the pogrom known as Kristallnacht took place, and the synagogues in the city were destroyed by fire. The building of the Broder Schul was not destroyed because the fire was extinguished by a non-Jew who happened to be in the vicinity (he paid for this by being arrested as an enemy of the Reich). However, the contents of the synagogue were utterly destroyed and the scroll that had remained in the ark was torn to shreds.
It is likely that the scrolls discovered in the renovated university library were those that Chaim Israel had rescued from the Broder Schul. It is still unclear though: how were the scrolls transferred from the JNF building to their hiding place in the university - and who was able and willing, during those dark days in Germany, to hide Torah scrolls?
The one Torah scroll that had been found in relatively salvagable condition was sent to the Association of Leipzig Jews in Israel who subsequently decided that its rightful place is in Yad Vashem.