Passover Haggadah written in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp by Rabbi Yekutiel Yaakov Neubauer who perished in the camp. A summary of the Haggadah was written in pencil on the last pages of a German pocket calendar with the special prayer text they would recite in Bergen-Belsen before eating chametz on Passover due to Pikuach Nefesh, Bergen-Belsen, 1944. An item of supreme historical importance testifying to how Jews observed the Mitzvot and the resilience of the Jewish spirit even in the Nazi inferno.
A detailed pocket calendar published in Berlin for 1937 including an almanac for that year, many advertisements for Berlin businesses, as well as illustrations of Nazi Wehrmacht army symbols. At the end of the calendar on the blank pages appears a summary of the Passover Haggadah in pencil handwriting by Rabbi Yekutiel Yaakov Neubauer. On the page before the Haggadah text is written: "Pesach Bergen-Belsen 1944 Jakob Neubauer", illustration of a skeleton, and a Jewish figure, followed by a dotted lettered summary of the Passover Haggadah in his handwriting – the Haggadah order, an illustration of the Seder plate, Ha Lachma Ania, Ma Nishtana, K’Neged Arba Banim, VeHi She-amda, and finally a special text recited before eating chametz in Bergen-Belsen (see below):
“Before eating chametz one should say wholeheartedly: Our Father in Heaven, it is revealed and known before you that it is our desire to do your will and celebrate the holiday of Passover by eating matzah and observing the prohibition of chametz, but our hearts grieve that the enslavement prevents us, and we are in mortal danger. We are prepared and ready to fulfill your commandments and live by them (not die by them) and be careful of your warning השמר לך ושמור נפשך מאד (“Be very careful about your life”). Therefore our prayer to you is that you keep us alive, sustain us and redeem us speedily to observe your laws and do your will and serve you wholeheartedly, Amen”.
As is known, in Bergen-Belsen the prisoners did not refrain from eating bread on Passover in 1943 and 1944 due to the mortal danger they faced – the inability to prepare Matzot and severe starvation. (In 1945 the Jewish prisoners managed to eat matzah on Passover thanks to one of the prisoners who worked in a matzah bakery. That year the children also helped prepare the Matzot, poking holes in them with nails). The special text recited before eating chametz on Passover was written by the camp’s Rabbi Yissachar Bernd Davids, and prisoner Shimon Desberg distributed it among the prisoners in the camp. An identical text to the prayer before us, which was written on a slip of paper in Bergen-Belsen, is kept in the Ghetto Fighters Museum. In his book “Yesupar LeDor”, camp prisoner Yona Emanuel describes how the camp rabbis unanimously ruled that bread should be eaten on Passover due to "VeChai Bhem" (and you shall live by them), and a few copies of the prayer were distributed among camp members. See also the Yad Vashem book “Silent Witnesses: The Story of Objects from the Yad Vashem Collection” published 2014, p. 51 – where an identical text to the prayer over eating chametz appears, as well as the story of the Desberg family who distributed the prayer among the camp prisoners.
Rabbi Dr. Yekutiel Yaakov Neubauer [1895-1945] was a teacher at the Teachers Beit Midrash in Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany, founded by Rabbi Yitzchak Dov Bamberger, and Rector of the Rabbinical Beit Midrash in Amsterdam, Holland. He perished in Bergen-Belsen. His father was a member of the Belz Hasidic movement and was also an active Zionist. Rabbi Yekutiel was the oldest of nine children and had eight sisters. He received his rabbinic ordination at age 18 from the great rabbis of Galicia: Rabbi Eliyahu Bombach, Av Beit Din of the Oshpitzin and Rabbi Shabbtai HaKohen Rappaport, Av Beit Din of Krakow - both perished in the Holocaust. After his marriage he remained in the city of Leipzig, studying mainly jurisprudence at Leipzig University. Neubauer completed a doctorate with distinction at age 23, writing his 1918 German doctoral thesis “The History of Biblical and Talmudic Marriage Laws”. Publication of this work by the twenty-three year old scholar made a tremendous impression in academic circles, garnering highly favorable reviews in professional journals. In 1923 he served as lecturer at the Teachers Beit Midrash in Würzburg, where he was one of the prominent lecturers, greatly influencing students who came from renowned yeshivas, rabbinical Beit Midrash and universities. His teaching abilities and radiant personality became well known, so that when the position of Rector at the Rabbinical Beit Midrash in Amsterdam became vacant in 1930, he was offered the post. Only with the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany in 1933 did Neubauer agree to accept the position in Amsterdam, declining a lectureship at the Hebrew University in the process. Among his many students: Rabbi Aaron Shuster, Head of the Amsterdam Rabbinical Court and Professor Benjamin de Fries. His research dealt with Bible studies, but mainly Talmudic research, study of Jewish law and Hebrew jurisprudence from a broad perspective encompassing connections to the various Jewish disciplines, such as history and Aggadah (tales).
Little is known of Rabbi Dr. Neubauer’s experiences during the Holocaust. There is information that in 1941 he was asked about conditional divorce, an issue that concerned many in those uncertain times. When the Nazis invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, he resided in Amsterdam, from where he was deported to Bergen-Belsen together with his wife Rzezi and young son Yehoshua. He perished in Bergen-Belsen on March 22, 1945 close to the liberation of the camp by the Allies.
We did not find another handwriting by Rabbi Neubauer for comparison. His identification as the writer was made according to his signature at the top of the Haggadah. It is quite possible it was written by another prisoner in the camp on Rabbi Neubauer’s behalf at his request.
Calendar: 9 cm. 102  p. Good - very good condition.