The "rebuilt"  Ohel of Rabbi Meir Yechiel Halevi Halstock
The "rebuilt" Ohel of Rabbi Meir Yechiel Halevi Halstock

Burying the Torah Scrolls During the Days of Terror

In memory of the shining soul of my father, Grunim Yeshayahu Gutholz ob”m, which departed in
purity at Auschwitz in the year 1944

Burying the Torah Scrolls During the Days of Terror

By: Chana Wittenberg-Gutholz Translated from the Ostrowiec Yizkor Book, 1971 ,  Page 296

Translation by Yechezkel Anis

The Jewish community of Ostrowiec stood in despair after the second stage of the expulsion
in January 1943, confounded and directionless in face of the increasing bloodbath.
After a pause of three months, those thirsty for Jewish blood were once again running wild in the streets.

In the stifling and besieged ghetto, surrounded by fences and barricades, dead bodies were piling up once again – men, women, and children. The caked blood upon the bodies of the victims screamed out from the white snow, demanding an answer: Why? Why?

However, both the pavestones of the abandoned street and the heavens continued their stubborn silence.
How pitiable and solitary we were, occupants of the ghetto, amid our great calamity. The
murdered were brought to burial while those left alive, drained and tormented, continued
their miserable existence, spending the last vestiges of their diminishing strength in
backbreaking hard labor. They would depart at dawn to their unbearable labors and return with dark to their shadowy, mournful homes.

That is how we endured the three-month hiatus, terrified of the new aktzia that awaited us.

And then the bitter day drew near when the ghetto was to be liquidated completely – the
day when the Jews were to be transferred from the area of the ghetto to barracks that were set up on the grounds of Ostrowiec’s metal works.

The reactions of the ghetto’s Jews to the terrible report of an impending aktzia were varied. There were those who ran about as if drugged with a poisonous fear, seeking a way out and asking: What’s to be done? Where to turn? Where to find shelter? Where to hide? Should we perhaps abandon the ghetto and escape into the woods?

The hearts of the mothers were preoccupied with a single thought: How to protect those
infants whom they had succeeded every which way to conceal up to that point? Where to hide them going forward so that the murderous hands of the Nazis would not seize them?
There were those as well who despaired entirely of any possible out. They sank into a deep apathy, obstinately frozen in place: We shall not move from the ghetto! We shall not flee from our bitter fate! We will place our faith in God! He will not forsake us!
At the height of this terror-filled period, when all hope of deliverance had vanished, my father carried out a unique mission: He went to great lengths to gather the sacred Torah scrolls that had survived in the town, those that had been saved from the defiled hands of the Nazis.

My father ob”m knew in his anxious heart that when the evil would pass for the remaining Jews, he would not be spiritually prepared to leave the ghetto and abandon the Torah scrolls that Jews had sacrificed their lives for, never abandoning them even in the most difficult periods of their long blood-soaked exile.
Other Jews joined in my father’s rescue mission as well. Together they collected the Torah scrolls and with their precious possessions made their way to the ohel (mausoleum) of the Ostrovtzer Rebbe [Rabb Meir Yechiel] , interring them there in the earth.

And on that terrible night a blood-red moon was seen in the heavens…