By Kate McCloud, HMMSA Assistant Director
On Tuesday, July 14, the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio (HMMSA) hosted a virtual Zoom presentation by Memorial Scrolls Trust trustee, Lois Roman. The presentation, The Czech Scroll Story: From World War II to the Diaspora, told the extraordinary story of the Czech Memorial Scrolls.
These Torah scrolls, once an important part of Jewish life in Bohemia and Moravia, were first brought together in the Jewish Museum in Prague in 1942 by order of the Nazi Jὓdische Zentralstelle. The scrolls and other pieces of Judaica were then carefully cataloged and stored by the museum’s staff until they were sent to concentration camps. However, the scrolls remained in the Jewish Museum, which was luckily spared from any significant damage during the war. Following World War II, Prague fell under Communist control, and the new government had little use for religious objects. One of the original museum curators of the Jewish Museum, who had survived the concentration camps and returned to Prague after liberation, was able to convince the Communist government officials to allow the scrolls to be moved to an abandoned synagogue outside of the city. There the scrolls sat, until 1964, when an art dealer from London was offered the chance to purchase the entire collection. He contacted a longtime client in London who agreed to purchase the scrolls and have them transported to the Westminster Synagogue. Soon after the scrolls arrived in London the Memorial Scrolls Trust was established to restore and preserve the scrolls as a memorial to those who died during the Holocaust. As part of their mission, the Memorial Scrolls Trust, has sent more than a thousand of these scrolls out on loan to synagogues and museums around the world.
Roman also discussed the history of the Czech Memorial Scroll on loan to HMMSA and the new and ongoing projects of the Memorial Scrolls Trust. If you missed the presentation, a recording is available on the museum website at: https://www.hmmsa.org/the-czech-memorial-scroll.
Save the date for the next HMMSA event, the HMMSA Reads book club meeting on September 4 starting at 5:30 p.m., where the group will discuss Holocaust graphic novels with author Dr. Victoria Aarons.