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Bruce Drake

I first came across the concept of “Kiddush Hashem” when I was overseeing translation of the Kovel (Ukraine) Yizkor book. Literally translated, it means “Sanctification of the Lord,” which manifested itself in accepting martyrdom to glorify Him. A chapter in the Kovel book (
) contains a riveting scene in which Rabbi Nachum-Mosheleh Twersky tells a throng of Jews about to be executed by the Nazis: "In a few minutes we will fall into this pit here and nobody will even know where we were buried and nobody will recite the Kaddish for us. And we so wish to live...Let us, however, united at this moment in a desire to sanctify the name of the Lord by renouncing even the Kaddish. Let us stand before the Germans in joy that we sanctified the name of the Lord."
That spirit runs through “The Hasidic Dance in Oswiecim” a chapter from the “Oswiecim; Auschwitz Memorial Book” recounting how Jews prepared to face their march to the gas chambers. It is hard to know how much of this is an actual historical account or folklore (or a combination of both), but in either case, the chapter illuminates the deep meaning of Kiddush Hashem. Its main figure is the “Dancing Rabbi,” who had earlier “conquered the crematorium ovens of Auschwitz,” and later inspired his young Hasidic followers in Bergen Belsen to face their death in the spirit of Kiddush Hashem. But this time, it led to a different and surprising end.

Bruce Drake
Silver Spring, MD

Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel