Little Mehrin

Current exhibition

Places where Moravian Torah scrolls were at home 1942 - 1964 - 2019

The aim of the exhibition is to introduce the public to the unique phenomenon of the transfer of Torah scrolls, originally from Moravian and Czech synagogues to Great Britain, which took place in 1964. The transfer was historically preceded by the efforts of two museum institutions, the Jewish Museum in Prague and the Jewish Central Museum for Moravia-Silesia in Mikulov. The Torah, a black flame on a white flame, represents the sacred text that has provided for two and a half thousand years
continuity in values and liturgy for Jewish communities in the Diaspora, including those that were brutally decimated during the Nazi occupation of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. In a brief historical excursion, the complex force field of Nazi institutions and the employees of the Prague Jewish community at their mercy is presented here, when, after the incident with the so-called Mikulov collection, two bulletins were issued, in June and August 1942, ordering the removal of liturgical objects, including Torah scrolls, to Prague. The post-war renewal of many Jewish communities became a temporary phenomenon, with all due respect to those who
sought to preserve their communities and maintain their activities; political developments in the country also had an impact. 

Of the 53 Jewish religious communities reestablished in 1945, only nine remained in Bohemia and Moravia in 1952, and only five in 1961; the remaining communities of up to 10 members were converted into synagogue congregations. The Jewish Museum in Prague was nationalized in 1949-1950; hundreds and hundreds of abandoned Torah scrolls were transferred as a "library of antiquity" to the synagogue in Prague-Michli. In 1964, 1,564 scrolls were sold through the Artia agency to Great Britain, where the Memorial Scrolls Trust was established. The aim of the Trust was to commemorate the fate of the defunct Czech and Moravian Jewish communities, and to be a memento for congregations
in the USA and Western Europe. Around 1,400 scrolls are now on long-term loan and used in congregations in the USA and Great Britain.

An initiative has now been launched within the Foundation to map the places where the Torah scrolls originated, the condition of the synagogues, and what they are used for today. The list of 35 scroll sites became a road map of Moravia for photographer Sheila Pallay and historian Julius Müller in 2019. Using selected examples, the exhibition shows the situation in Moravia. While some synagogues were demolished out of racial hatred by the Nazis (Bzenec, Frýdek-Místek, Olomouc, Ostrava, Uherský Brod, Uherský Ostroh) others were torn down after the war out of arrogance of power or disinterest (Brno-Velká synagogue, Hodonín, Jihlava, Kroměříž, Kyjov, Mikulov-Dolní synagogue, Moravské Budějovice). Others were used as cultural institutions (Hranice, Miroslav, Telč, Uherské Hradiště) or became houses of prayer of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church (Ivanovice na Hané, Lipník nad Bečvou, Kojetín, Prostějov, Rousínov, Slavkov, Třebíč-Přední synagogue,
Třešt', Vyškov). 

Places where Jewish communities survived or where synagogues were restored to their original form by various initiatives remain a source of hope (Boskovice, Dolní Kounice Holešov, Loštice, Mikulov, Polná, Třebíč-Zadní
synagogue). The question arises whether the useful and formative paradigm of the MST Foundation is changing. There may be several answers to the changed situation. We have noted examples of the return of Torah scrolls
to the home congregation (Olomouc) or at least to the country of origin (Ec Chayim, Prague). Educational institutions in Moravian synagogues could also be additional recipients. Establishing contact with foreign congregations can be very inspiring and mutually beneficial.
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of the murdered archivists and historians who contributed to the rescue of Torah scrolls from the Czech lands between 1938 and 1945.