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Megillah (Book of Esther) from the former Zülz synagogue brought to the US by German Jewish refugees

Object | Accession Number: 2004.482.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Megillah (Book of Esther) from the former synagogue in Zülz, Germany (now Biała Prudnicka, Poland). The synagogue burned down on November 9, 1938, during Kristallnacht. The handwritten scroll tells the Biblical story of Esther, a Queen of Persia, who saved the Jewish people from a massacre planned by an advisor to the King. The story is read aloud on the Jewish holiday of Purim. Historically, the town of Zülz had a large Jewish population, and a sizeable brick synagogue was built in 1774, after the previous one burned down. The new synagogue was one of the largest in Germany at the time of its construction, and the scroll was kept there. However, the Jewish population began to decline, and by World War I (1914-1918) there were only a few Jews left in Zülz. In 1914, the religious items and Torah scrolls were transferred to Neustadt in Oberschlesien (now Prudnik, Poland), and the synagogue was sold. The Hirschberg (later Harter) family included Harry, his wife Lenore, and children, Donald and Dorothy. They lived in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), and were descended from Jews who left Zülz. Harry was a doctor, but increasing persecution from the Nazi authorities forced him to flee to Cuba in 1938. On November 9–10, 1938, Nazi leaders unleashed a wave of violence against the German Jewish population. The Kristallnacht pogrom was one of the most violent and widespread acts of persecution. Jews were attacked, and their residences, businesses, and places of worship were destroyed, including the synagogue in Zülz. The rest of Harry’s family escaped to Cuba in 1939, and the entire family immigrated to the United States in 1940.
    Book of Esther
    use:  before 1939
    use: Prudnik (Poland); Biala (Wojewodztwo Opolskie, Poland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Donald H. Harter
    front, handwritten, black ink : [Hebrew text]
    Subject: Donald Harter M.D.
    Donald Harry Hirschberg (later Harter, 1933-2019) was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), to Harry Morton (1899-1957) and Lenore Evelyne Hirschberg (nee Goldman (or Goldmann), 1906-1982). Donald had a younger sister, Dorothy (later Jacobs, b. 1938). Harry was born in Breslau, while Lenore was born in Hindenburg, Germany (now Zabrze, Poland). However, both of their families originated from Zülz, Germany (now Biała Prudnicka, Poland). Harry was a doctor who specialized in neuroscience, while Lenore took care of the children and house. Lenore’s parents, Siegfried (1876-1942) and Käthe (nee Böhm, 1880-1942) also lived in Breslau.

    On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Under Hitler, authorities began suppressing the rights and personal freedoms of Jews. Under the new laws, Harry was no longer able to see or treat non-Jewish patients, and the family’s German citizenship was stripped when the Nuremberg Laws were passed in September 1935. In the face of this persecution, Lenore and Harry began searching for ways to leave Germany. In 1938, Harry left for Havana, Cuba, and Lenore, Donald, Dorothy, and the family dog followed in 1939. The family stayed in Cuba until 1940, when they immigrated to the United States with the assistance of Max Morgenstein. They arrived in New York City on August 20, on board the S.S. Imperial. Lenore’s parents, Siegfried and Käthe were unable to escape Germany, and remained in Breslau. They were able to evade an aktion in September 1941, but were captured in a second aktion, on April 13, 1942. They were first taken to the Schießwerder Beer garden and held there for a few days. Siegfried and Käthe were then deported to Lublin, in German-occupied Poland, and from there they were likely taken to either the Sobibor or Belzac killing centers, where they were killed.

    After arriving in the United States, the family Americanized their surname to Harter, and Harry continued to work as a doctor. The family moved to Marcy, New York, and later, to Kew Gardens. Donald graduated from Andrew Jackson high school in 1950. He went on to college, and received his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1957. Donald had a long career as a neurologist, and served in that role as a captain in the Air Force Reserve from 1961 to1963. He was an assistant professor of neurology and microbiology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons from 1966 to 1975. Throughout his career, Donald served on professional committees, medical research advisory boards, and editorial boards for professional journals and his work was recognized by several awards, fellowships and honors. Dorothy married and moved to Florida. Donald had four children, and had been married several times.

    Physical Details

    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Object Type
    Scrolls (lcsh)
    Religious articles.
    Physical Description
    Hand lettered, text-only Megillah, printed on four sections of cream-colored parchment sewn together with linen thread and animal sinew. The three main sections are large and square-shaped, with columns of black Hebrew text while the fourth, left most section of parchment is very narrow and blank. The text is in three, evenly spaced columns on the center and right sections, while the leftmost main section has two outside columns flanking two, narrow columns of large print at the center. The original iron gall ink is faded black, and several parts of the text have been repaired (printed over) with darker ink. The narrow section on the left side is heavily curled. The parchment is lightly worn and discolored throughout, most notably near the edges and at the ends. There are several significant horizontal creases in the narrow segment, and smaller creases throughout the rest. There are several small pinholes along the right edge. The right section shows more staining, creases, and wear from use, as well as several small stains near the edge.
    overall: Height: 21.875 inches (55.563 cm) | Width: 78.125 inches (198.437 cm)
    overall : parchment, ink, sinew, linen

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The megillah was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Dr. Donald H. Harter.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:10:56
    This page:

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