Museum celebrates rescue of Czech scrolls

By Simon Rocker, September 26, 2008

A new museum at the Westminster Synagogue tells the story of its famous collection of Czech scrolls rescued from the Holocaust. A state-of-the-art display with audio-visual and computer facilities was unveiled last week on the third floor of the synagogue's premises in Kent House, Knightsbridge.

The exhibition, "The Silent Messengers", is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 4pm but can be viewed at other times by arrangement.

In 1964, 1,564 scrolls saved by Czech Jews in Prague during the Holocaust were brought to the synagogue.

Since then, more than 1,400 have been repaired and restored and sent to Jewish communities across the world.

In an article explaining their origin, Michael Heppner, research director of the Memorial Scrolls Trust, says: "It was a group of Jews in the Jewish community in Prague in the terrible days of the Nazi oppression who put forward the plan to bring to the relative safety of Prague the Jewish liturgical treasures and archives from the abandoned synagogues in the Czech provinces."

It is unclear why the Nazis accepted the idea, he adds. "What is clear is that the plan to rescue over 100,000 Jewish items was a Jewish plan." Addressing the well-attended launch of the museum, Steven Smith of the Holocaust Centre in Nottingham said the scrolls are "representatives of those communities and the lives of those communities".

The museum set was constructed by a designer from Germany, Fritz Armbuster, shipped to London and re-assembled here, curator Evelyn Friedlander explained.

Last updated: 10:25am, September 25 2008