Marking the Holiday of Purim

Before, During and After the Holocaust

Purim is traditionally one of the most joyous holidays in the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. One of the central commandments related to Purim is the reading of the book of Esther known as the Megillah, which means scroll. It is customary to hold celebrations on Purim, to dress up, and perform plays and parodies. The photos, artifacts and video from Yad Vashem's Collections presented here feature some of the ways that Purim was observed throughout Europe prior to the Holocaust, during the Holocaust years, and in the displaced persons camps and children’s homes following the war.

Children in Bedouin costumes on Purim, Herrlingen, Germany, March 1937
Children during a Purim celebration in the Lodz ghetto
A group of children dressed up for Purim in an orphanage in Brussels, Belgium, 1946
Costume of a Greek freedom fighter that belonged to Rachel-Sarah Osmo from Corfu, Greece. Rachel-Sarah perished in Auschwitz
Jewish refugee children in the Chabannes children's home dressed in Purim costumes, March 1942
Yehudit Kulla on Purim, Grojec, Poland, prewar. Yehudit was murdered in the Holocaust
Rosy Markiter wearing a costume on Purim, Kowel, Poland, 27/02/1927
Holocaust survivor Reuven Jamnik reading the Megillah (the Book of Esther) in the Landsberg DP camp, Purim 1946
A Megillat Esther (Esther Scroll) illustrated by Otto Geismar, printed on paper, Berlin, Germany, 1936
A young woman in costume on Purim, Kovno, Lithuania
Children during a Purim celebration in Wieliczka, Poland, 1942
Children in costume on Purim in an orphanage in Brussels, Belgium, 1946
1946 - Footage of Post-War Purim celebration in Children's Home of Yehoshua and Hennie Birenbaum in Amsterdam, Holland
Miriam Goldstein (from left) in a gypsy costume, and Sarah Goldstein dressed up as a Romanian soldier, at a Purim party in their home in the Hasidic town of Érmihályfalva, Hungary, 1942
Children of the "Gani" kindergarten dressed up for a Purim performance, Eishishok, Poland
People in costume at a Purim party, Berlin, Germany, 17 March 1946
Purim show at the Jewish school in Vagfarkasd, Hungary, 1943
Purim play held in a nursery school in Rokiskis, Lithuania on 2 March 1938
"Megillat Hitler" rolled together with a Megillat Esther (Esther Scroll), Casablanca, Morocco, 1944.
Purim party at the Koordinatzia orphanage in Lodz, 1948
Two girls in costume on Purim, Czechoslovakia, 26 March 1929
Three girls baking cookies on Purim, Berlin, Germany, 17 March 1937
Purim play being held in the ghetto in Wielopole, Poland, 1942
Gerda and Liesel Mayer dressed as a prince and princess on Purim, Herrlingen, Germany, 1938
A Purim Manuscript from Ilia camp in Transylvania, 1943
The Steinbock family (family of the photo's submitter) on Purim, Chernivtsy, Ukraine, 1940
Purim party, Shanghai, China, April 1910
Malka Geri (Gergas), walking on the street with her friend Riva Spivak, holding Mishlochei Manot (gifts of food that are distributed on Purim) in her hand, Aleksandrja, Poland, 1939
Children in an orphanage celebrating Purim. Brussels, Belgium, 1947
Purim morning prayer service at the Great Synagogue of Anyksciai, Lithuania, 1926
Purim decoration written in micrographic text: the Book of Esther accompanied by liturgical poems, Moshe Maurice Gluck, beginning of the 20th Century
Purim party in Kaba, Hungary before the war
Children performing a play during Purim in Wieliczka, Poland, 1942
On the occasion of Purim, Holocaust survivors in the Landsberg DP camp in Germany made a mock-tombstone for Haman (a traditional enemy of the Jewish people and the antagonist of the Purim story) and Hitler
Hannah Szenes in a Purim costume in Hungary before the war
A scroll of the Book of Esther, found in Vilna after the war
Purim at a local branch of the Beitar movement, Trebishow, Czechoslovakia, 1935-1936
Purim in the Displaced Persons camp, Wels, Austria
Purim 1943 is the date of the final entry in the Pensione Pines guestbook. Pensione Pines was a Jewish guest house in Rome that operated during the years of Fascist rule, and even for some time under German occupation when all Jewish businesses had been shut down.
Children in an orphanage celebrating Purim, Brussels, Belgium
A photograph of a class with a teacher on Purim, Kowel, Poland
Liselote Ermann on Purim, Saarbruken, Germany, early 1930s
Avraham Hellmann served as a cantor for services held in the Sudetenkaserne Synagogue in Theresienstadt and this Scroll of Esther that he brought with him served those who prayed there.
Purim celebration in Otwock, Poland, 1948
Jenta Blejcher and another child in costume for Purim, Luboml, Poland
A British Army representative with children during a Purim party in Berlin, Germany, 17 March 1946
Kibbutz Arlozorov during Purim at the Marina di Leuca displaced persons camp, Italy
Notices about Purim performances, Vilna, before WWII
Students from a Jewish school in costume on Purim, 1935-1936, Koenigsberg, Germany
People in costume for the Purim holiday, Stakliskes, Lithuania, 1933