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Ritual circumcision set with 2 knives, a case, 2 shields, a suction tube, and scissors used by a mohel

Object | Accession Number: 1992.8.38 a-g

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    Ritual circumcision set with 2 knives, a case, 2 shields, a suction tube, and scissors used by a mohel

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Brit milah set with 7 items: 2 mila knives, 2 guides (Mogen or shields), a glass suction tube, scissors, and case used by Isaac Ossowski, a highly respected mohel who left Berlin because of the targeted persecution of Jews by the government of Nazi Germany. A mohel is a person qualified to perform the brit (bris) milah, the ritual circumcision of a male, Jewish child. The training includes both the medical procedures and extensive knowledge of Jewish laws and traditions. Rabbi Ossowski was head shochet [ritual slaughterer], mohel [practioner of ritual circumcision], sofer [scribe], and hazan [cantor or musical prayer leader] at the Alte Shul [Old Synagogue]. After Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, increasingly severe sanctions were enacted against Jews. The Ossowski family was repeatedly questioned by the SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadrons) who gathered intelligence on opponents of the Nazi state and policed racial purity. In 1934, Isaac sent his youngest son, 14 year old Sol, to Lithuania to study at a yeshiva. In 1936, his sons, Joseph and Leo, left for the United States. In 1938, Isaac and his wife, Frida, and their daughter, Nettie, escaped Nazi Germany and joined Joseph in the US. Sol joined them there in 1939.
    Date
    emigration:  1938
    use:  approximately 1910-1938
    Geography
    use: Berlin (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sol Oster
    Markings
    d. front, top, center inside spade, engraved : symbol
    d. front, top, center inside rectangle, engraved : WOLFF
    d. front, top, left side, engraved : M
    d. front, top, right, engraved : M
    Contributor
    Subject: Isaac Ossowski
    Subject: Sol Oster
    Biography
    Isaac Ossowski was born in 1877 in Lubraniez, near Warsaw, Poland, to an extremely devout family and Hasidim, with a long tradition of religious study and service, as hazan [cantors], shochet [ritual slaughterer], mohels [perform ritual circumcision], and sofers [scribes.] His father, Menahem, was a shochet and Isaac attended Yeshiva in Russia. He resettled in Germany, first in Frankfurt am Main, then in Berlin. He married Frieda Schwartzbardt, born in 1888. They had three sons, Joseph, (1915-2011), Leo (b. 4/1/1913), and Sol (1919-2011), and one daughter, Nettie. Rabbi Ossowski became head shochet, overseeing the ritual slaughter of animals in Berlin. He also served as hazan, mohel, and sofer for the Alte Shule [Old Synagogue]. After Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, the persecution of Jews became official government policy. Rabbi Ossowski and members of his family were interrogated several times by the SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadrons) who gathered intelligence on opponents of the Nazi state and policed racial purity. In 1934, due to the threatening anti-Semitic climate of the Nazi state, he sent his young son, Sol, to Lithuania to study at a yeshiva. In 1938, Rabbi Ossowski, with his wife and daughter, escaped Nazi Germany for the United States. They joined their sons, Joseph and Leo, who had settled in the United States in 1936. Their son, Sol, joined them in the United States in 1939 after completing his rabbinical studies in England. Rabbi Ossowski, 66, died in Ohio in 1943.
    Sally (Sol) Ossowski was born on January 1, 1919, in Berlin, Germany, to Frieda Schwartzbardt, born in 1888, and Rabbi Issac Ossowski, born in 1877 in Lubraniez, Poland. Sol had two brothers, Leo, born on April 1, 1913, and Joseph, born in 1914, in Pfungstadt, and a sister, Nettie. His father was a prominent and active member of the Jewish community, serving as a shochet [ritual slaughterer], mohel [practioner of ritual circumcision], sofer [scribe], and cantor. The family attended the Alte Schul synagogue where Sol sang in the choir. He attended the Jewish Community School for Boys until he was 14 years old and was active in sports, plays, and clubs.
    By the early 1930s, and especially after Hitler's appointment as Chancellor in 1933, Sol noticed a change within society as people’s attitudes towards Jews began to change in response to the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazi government. The Ossowski family was the target of anti-Semitic behaviours and attacks, much of this due to his father's prominent position within the Jewish community. Some of Sol's friends stopped playing with him and neighbors no longer said hello. Members of the Hitler Youth attacked Sol on the subway, yelling “Jew, get out”, and attempted to open the doors of the moving train; Sol escaped, but not one person helped him. One day as they were on their way to temple, two SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadrons) guards took Sol, his brothers, and father into the basement of a bar. Sol managed to escape, but was captured and returned; a neighbour talked the SS into letting them go. Another time, the SS forced their way into their home looking for contraband.

    As a result of this incident, Sol decided he wanted to leave Germany. Isaac supported this decision and made arrangements for him to attend seminary outside of Germany. Sol left in 1934 for a yeshiva in Ponevezh (Panevezys), Lithuania. He wanted to emigrate to Palestine and help establish a Jewish state. His brother, Joseph, got a visa for the United States with the help of a cousin, and emigrated in 1936. He sent Sol money for his living expenses. In December 1936, Sol received a letter from the German government requiring German citizens to register with the embassy in Kaunas and to hand in their passports. He was terrified that if he complied he would be stateless and unable to leave Lithuania. Sol believed emigration to Palestine was no longer an option. An Arab revolt in 1936 resulted in the British severely limiting immigration. He discussed his plight with Rabbi Kahaneman, the head of the Yeshiva. They decided that Sol should apply to the Tree of Life seminary in London. Sol no longer felt safe in Lithuania. Pro-Nazi groups were active in the country and anti-Semitism was growing stronger throughout the country. He decided to go into hiding in the Jasnegurke forest in January 1937. A farmer allowed him to live in his barn. Food was brought to him by the Green family whom he had lived with while in school. The mother, a cook at the Yeshiva, made food for Sol which her daughter brought to him. Once he received his acceptance letter from the seminary in June 1937, Sol came out of hiding and left for London via Denmark. He stayed for one week in Copenhagen with a local Rabbi before securing a ticket to London from the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish humanitarian assistance organization that aided German Jews in their flight from Nazi Europe. He entered England on a student visa in June 1937.

    Sol’s parents and sister left Germany for the United States via Belgium in 1938, having changed their name from Ossowski to Oster. Sol completed university and emigrated to the U.S. in 1939. He married Frieda Perl on December 20, 1947, and they had a son. He was the longest tenured rabbi at Temple Beth Israel-Shaare Zedek in Lima, Ohio, serving for more than 40 years. He retired in 1992, and was bestowed the honor of rabbi emeritus by his congregation. Leo died in 2008, Joseph in 2009, and his wife, Frieda, in 2011. Sol died on August 25, 2011, in Hilliard, Ohio at age 92.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Physical Description
    a. Rectangular metal frame case covered with black leather. The lid has a tooled border and is attached to the base by metal hinges covered with the dark purple silk that lines the base. cut to fit the knife. It has a metal clasp lock with the semi-circular metal on the section on the base that attaches to a rectangular opening on the lid.
    b. Cylindrical, clear glass tube with a bell-shaped top of dark gray glass. Both ends are open to allow the mohel to suction the wound until blood appears, a stage of the brit milah called the metzitzeh b’peh.
    c. Tulip-shaped, dark silver colored metal guide or shield [Mogen] which widens and separates into 2 rounded stems. The top is scalloped with rounded edges. During the brit milah, the foreskin is pulled through the groove in the shield which acts as a protective barrier between it and the glans.
    d. Tulip-shaped gold colored metal guide that widens and separates into 2 stems. The top is scalloped with an engraved spade with a symbol within; below the spade is an engraved rectangle with Hebrew text within and at the sides; below this is an engraved vertical line that extends to the where the metal separates. The reverse side has no markings. During the brit milah, the foreskin is pulled through the groove in the shield which acts as a protective barrier between it and the glans.
    e. Silver colored metal scissors with circular eye ring openings for the fingers. Each eye ring is soldered to a rectangular handle which turns into the blade. The left blade is rounded and set above the pointed right blade and they are joined by a rivet.
    f. Double-edged, steel knife with a rounded point and a cylindrical silver colored metal handle with an engraved scalloped design. The blade is soldered to a rectangular metal bolster which narrows to create a ridge. A milah [circumcision] knife is sharp on both edges to avoid hesitation during use that might cause unnecessary pain to the child.
    g. Double-edged, polished, steel milah knife with a rounded point and a central ridge. The blade attaches to a rectangular, silver colored metal bolster which conncts to a cylindrical, mother-of-pearl handle. A milah [circumcision] knife is sharp on both edges to avoid hesitation during use that might cause unnecessary pain to the child.
    Dimensions
    a: Height: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm) | Width: 8.120 inches (20.625 cm) | Depth: 5.000 inches (12.7 cm)
    b: Height: 3.000 inches (7.62 cm) | Width: 0.880 inches (2.235 cm) | Diameter: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    c: Height: 2.870 inches (7.29 cm) | Width: 1.380 inches (3.505 cm) | Depth: 0.120 inches (0.305 cm)
    d: Height: 3.000 inches (7.62 cm) | Width: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm) | Depth: 0.120 inches (0.305 cm)
    e: Height: 5.120 inches (13.005 cm) | Width: 1.620 inches (4.115 cm) | Depth: 0.120 inches (0.305 cm)
    f: Height: 7.500 inches (19.05 cm) | Width: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Depth: 0.380 inches (0.965 cm)
    g: Height: 5.500 inches (13.97 cm) | Width: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm) | Depth: 0.120 inches (0.305 cm)
    Materials
    a : leather, metal, silk, velvet
    b : glass
    c : metal
    d : metal
    e : metal
    f : metal
    g : metal, mother of pearl

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The circumcision utensil set was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1992 by Rabbi Sol Oster, the son of Isaac Ossowski.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:22:10
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn7128

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