French town unveils Jewish treasure hidden before Holocaust

Members of Dambach-la-Ville's former Jewish community hid the cache of thousands of items in the space of a double ceiling, designed especially for concealment, according to a French report.

By JTA
September 22, 2013 17:36
1 minute read.
Old Town of Strasbourg

Old Town of Strasbourg 390. (photo credit: Jonathan Martz/ wikimediacommons)

 
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A town near Strasbourg has unveiled dozens of precious Judaica items that were recently discovered during renovation of a former synagogue.

The items were presented to the public Sunday and were hidden before the Holocaust at what is now the new cultural center of Dambach-la-Ville, a town of 2,000 residents near Strasbourg in eastern France, the L’Alsace daily reported Saturday.

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Members of the town’s former Jewish community hid the cache of thousands of items — including old Torah scrolls and texts from the 16th century — in the space of a double ceiling, designed especially for concealment, according to the report.

Among the findings are 250 mapot, or wimpels – strips of cloth that were wrapped around Jewish babies during their circumcision and then decorated with their names and deposited for safekeeping. The oldest mappa found at Dambach was dated to 1614. The oldest item found at the former synagogue was a ruined Torah scroll dating back to 1592.

Jean-Camille Bloch, the vice president of the SHIAL historical society on Jewish presence in the Alsace-Lorraine region, is quoted as telling L’Alsace that some of the items recovered are worth hundreds of dollars.

The French government evacuated tens of thousands of Frenchmen from the Alsace-Lorraine region, including 14,000 Jews, when World War II broke out in 1939, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Because of the evacuation, only about ten percent of Alsace-Lorraine’s Jewish population of 20,000 perished in the Holocaust.

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