General Antisemitism

The Hanukiyah and the Swastika: The story behind a haunting photo from 1931


“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness” – Anne Frank

Last year we published an essay exploring the significance of the Hanukkah story in the context of the challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people, and illustrated the post with the following photo:

hanukkah

Though the symbolism of the image was likely clear, we were only recently able to track down the story, per a news report in December 2010. Here are excerpts: 

Yehuda Mansbach told Israel National News in an interview: “This Hanukiyah [Hanukkah menorah] is the only remaining memory of the congregation my Grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Akiva Baruch Pozner, led before escaping Germany.”

The photo [above] tells much of that history, says Mansbach, a resident of Beit Shemesh. “In this photo you see the Hanukiyah stationed at a window, with a Nazi flag across the street.” The photo was taken in 1931, says Mansbach, long before the Nazis came to power. But, as it happened, the house of Rabbi Posner, who led the community of Kiel in Germany, was right across the street from the local headquarters of the Nazi Party.

“It was on a Friday afternoon right before Shabbat that this photo was taken,” says Mansbach. “My grandmother realized that this was a historic photo, and she wrote on the back of the photo : ‘Their flag wishes to see the death of Judah, but Judah will always survive, and our light will outlast their flag.’”

As Rabbi of the Kiel community, Rabbi Posner did everything he could to encourage Jews to escape Germany.

Indeed, Mansbach says, many did leave, and by the time the Nazis came to power, some half of the congregation had already emigrated, mostly to the U.S. and the Land of Israel.

The Hanukiyah made it to Israel as well, and ended up in Yad Vashem. But each year they make sure to “borrow” if for their family Chanukah celebration. 

May the light of truth continue to burn brightly.

Happy Hanukkah!

11 replies »

  1. This picture could have been taken today too in London with the Hezballah flag in the background or in Amsterdam with some soundbites about Jewws and gas with the participation of a socialist parliamentarian…

    • One of the strengths of the article was that the writer had avoided lowering the debate for political purposes. He possibly knew others would come along to do this for him. Either that or he thought some words stand on their own without being mangled .

      • Berchnmans you should take your inane moralizing back to the comrades at the Guardian CIF. If the rumor that you have got banned there is true, then there are a lot of other websites where your kind of haters can distribute to the world their hate of democracy, freedom, the Jews, the US and anything else. Just think about Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada etc. – believe me you could became their most welcomed and applauded hero in less time than you could say “We are all Hizballah now” or “Hamas, Hamas Jews to the gas”…

        • It is self exile. I get moderated virtually every post there and hate it ..you lose the thread ( if you pardon the expression) . I suppose I shouldn’t keep calling them hypocrites but why hide the truth ?

          I just could not help noticing that a gentle ,evocative article ,rich in history and meaning is used by some to make petty political points. You think you are supporting the site but you are making it an easy target . Sometimes less is more.

  2. What a wonderful heart-warming story, one of the few from that era which has a fairly happy ending.

    The picture on its own is incredibly evocative, encapsulating the entire black period of German history in one window frame.

  3. The date of 1931 was not ” long before the Nazis came to power”. It was a mere 2 years before they were in control of the government