Report: Rov Permitted Eating Chometz at Concentration Camp


holocaust-survivorsIt should not be a chiddush, because it was pikuach nefesh. But The Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum has released a unique document revealing a halachic ruling issued by Bergen-Belsen’s rov, Rav  Yissachar- Bernard Davids, during the Holocaust, Yediot Achronotreported. The ruling, issued during Pesach, said that the prisoners were permitted to eat chametz for survival.

The document made its way to Israel many years ago, but the decision to reveal its contents to the public was made recently in light of the upcoming Yom Tov of Pesach.

Rabbi Davids served as chief rabbi in Rotterdam, Holland during World War II. He was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp with his family after Germany invaded Holland.

During Pesach, the rov instructed the Jewish prisoners to eat chometz due to pikuach nefesh, as there was no kosher food to be found.

During the Pesach Seder held at the camp, the rov said the regular bracha for matza but added a posuk intended for the specific situation: “Our father in heaven, we are withheld from obeying your laws and our souls are in peril.”

He then said Shehechiyanu. After the bracha, the rov passed matzoh to the prisoners attending the Seder.

In 1945, some two months before the camp’s liberation, Rav Davids died of a disease. His wife  and the couple’s daughters made aliyah in 1947. The document was kept with Mrs. Davids for safekeeping. It was passed on to the museum in 1997 when the she passed away.

{Yair Israel/Yediot Achronot}