In the Ark of Central Synagogue’s main Sanctuary, there is one Torah scroll unlike any of the others. While all of these scrolls tell the stories of the Jewish people, only one has lived the darkest chapter of that history. This is Central’s Holocaust Scroll.
During the Holocaust, the Nazis began looting collections and synagogues for Judaica objects and Jewish holy books, including Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls). They planned to display these stolen objects in a Museum of the Extinct Race.
Both the Jewish people and these sacred objects survived the Nazis’ reign of terror. After the end of WWII, 1,564 of the Torah scrolls that had been taken between 1939 and 1945 from Jewish communities in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia were the last survivors of their home communities. Without communities to return to, these abandoned Sifrei Torah were collected in Prague, and protected by the Czech government for many years. On 7 February 1964, Westminster Synagogue in London acquired the scrolls, with the help of Artia (the Czech state cultural agency). Since then, the Westminster Synagogue, together with its Memorial Scrolls Trust, have placed these Sifrei Torah in thriving Jewish communities around the world as reminders of this dark chapter of our shared past.
Since 1967, Central Synagogue has been home to one of these sacred scrolls. Our Holocaust scroll was written in the early 19th century, and originated in the community of Lipnik (now in the Czech Republic). Ours is Sefer Torah Number 866 of the Memorial Scrolls Trust. It can be recognized in our Ark by the mantle and breast-plate that adorn it, setting it apart from all of the other Torah scrolls that surround it.
For more information, please visit https://memorialscrollstrust.org/