The Gabersdorf Haggadah

Types of Maror (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Fearing the fragility of the matzot, I carefully placed them in the afikomen bag.

Then I started placing inserts into the Haggadahs.

Blake watched.

“Dad, what are you sticking into the Haggadahs?”

“This Passover, we’re reading portions of the Gabersdorf  Haggadah.”

“The what?”

“It’s a Haggadah written by 62 women in Gabersdorf slave labor camp.”

“You mean—a Haggadah survived a concentration camp?”

“Yup, not just the Haggadah but a whole diary of these prisoners’ experiences.”

“It’s a treasure, like the Diary of Anne Frank.”

“Yup, a gem that’s now housed in Yad Vashem. And there’s a surprise in it for the family.”

“Dad, before you talk about the surprise, teach me about Gabersdorf.”

“The Nazis established Gabersdorf  in 1941as a slave labor camp and in 1944 it was converted into a concentration camp. The Jewish women barracked there worked for textile factories.”

“What did they eat on Pesach?

“I don’t know but their typical meal consisted a rutabaga soup and bread.”

“Rutabaga?”

“Yup, rutabaga. It’s a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. The women were fed as little as 220 grams of bread a day. That’s one slice of bread per day. They worked from morning till night living on one slice of bread and some rutabaga soup.”

“Dad, I got an idea, why don’t we add a rutabaga to the Seder plate?”

“Great idea. Let’s call Walmart and see if they’ll deliver a rutabaga or a turnip.”

“Let’s place the turnip next to the maror.

Those women tasted the bitterness of life and we should honor their memories and remember their suffering.”

“Dad, who wrote the diary?”

“Regina Honigman, but others contributed to it. It contains poems, accounts of daily life, the Haggadah and a list of prisoners.”

“Tonight, we’ll sing Regina’s Dayenu.”

Jolly, lively, Death, Hunger
Dayenu!
Another night comes along,
Dayenu!
Our Judenälteste has a bed,
Dayenu!
When it pleases her she whacks us,
Dayenu!
We make nothing of the slaps,
Dayenu!
But the Lager has a laugh…

This Passover, we’ll read aloud Regina’s words, “We were slaves in Egypt once and now in Gabersdorf again.”

I handed Blake another sheet of paper.

“You’ll read Regina’s four questions.”

Ma Nishtana: Why is this night different from all other nights?

Because in our misery, as Jews we are stronger. The night is very long and very dark. In vain, the longing and loneliness in our Jewish hearts flows. Dawn is coming, another day of hope. …Oh, when in our lifetime will a day come, when we will not eat the bitter vegetables every night? When will our Yiddishe children have a gezunt life.

Blake continued reading:

Avadim Hayinu: We were slaves in Egypt once and now in Gabersdorf again.  In history we were at your mercy not to swallow us. We cannot save ourselves from God’s decree but from there we went into the free world onto Canaan. … where flowers and freedom bloom in the Promised Land. The triumphal day will come to Gabersdorf. The gates will open and out will run the sad, lonely, exhausted mob, Chevra.”

“Wow, this Passover there’s gonna be a lot of discussion about slavery, hope and freedom and what about the surprise you mentioned?”

“Your grandfather’s name is mentioned in the Gabersdorf diary.”

“Wow, what does it say?”

“I read:

“One of these days, the outstanding Metro-Gabersdorf Film Studio a-là Hollywood, which is competing with Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, will present a series of films casting new Gabersdorf stars.

“Alarm at the Dawn” starring Hela Judenalteste awaking the girls early in the morning.

“One Hundred Girls and One Man” starring Dr. Wolf Israel Lajtner.

You grandfather was a doctor at Gabersdorf; a slave ordered to take care of the 62 women’s medical needs. They joked and fantasized about making a Hollywood movie about life in Gabersdorf and your grandpa’s name was added to the cast of characters.

“What an honor— to get mentioned in the diary.

Grandpa’s name is enshrined in a treasure.

What a great idea to add the Gabersdorf  Haggadah to our Seder.”

“Son, what’s the value of the Gabersdorf  Diary?”

“It’s a reminder that at any time we can lose our freedom and return to slavery. That just because we’re free today, it may not last.

Be vigilant in your opposition to Pharaohs. So we don’t have to pray to G-d  to ‘Let His People Go.’

Freedom is a gem that needs protection and it’s as fragile as a piece of matzo.”

* * *

To-do list:

Read some of the Gabersdorf  Haggadah at your Seder, even if their are only two of you.

It will help but our crisis in perspective;

Order for home delivery a rutabaga for your Seder plate;

Go to yadvashem.org and read this Shoah diary’s take on slavery, freedom and hope;

While you’re on Yad Vashem website, do a mitzvah, do an act of tikkun olam and donate.

Remember, Tzedakah is a moral obligation in which the donors benefit from giving as much as or more than the recipients.

In this time of crisis,  may you be granted the blessing of celebrating Pesach for many years to come.

About the Author
South Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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