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Ritual slaughter instrument set: 3 knives, 3 cases, 2 whetstones, a bag, a band, and 4 cloths used by a shochet

Object | Accession Number: 1992.8.39 a-n

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    Ritual slaughter instrument set: 3 knives, 3 cases, 2 whetstones, a bag, a band, and 4 cloths used by a shochet

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Set of 14 instruments used for shehitah [ritual slaughter]by Isaac Ossowski, the head shochet for the Alte Shule in Berlin who left Germany with his family in 1938 because of the targeted persecution of Jews by the government of Nazi Germany. This set includes 3 knives of different sizes with wooden cases, 2 whetstones to sharpen the knives, and one bag and 4 cloths used to wipe and cover the instruments. A shochet performs shehitah, the Jewish religious and humane method of slaughtering animals and poultry. It requires years of training in the laws and procedures of shehitah, as well as the knowledge of animal anatomy and pathology. Rabbi Ossowski was a prominent member of the Jewish community in Berlin. He was a mohel [practioner of ritual circumcision], sofer [scribe], and hazan[cantor, musical prayer leader], as well as shochet for the Alte Shule [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
    l. bolster, engraved : ALINOWS
    ǀ
    n. front, top side, center, stamped : CARBORUNDUM / CARBORUNDUM COMPANY, / [NIAGARA F?]ALLS N.Y. USA
    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

    Language
    English Hebrew
    Classification
    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Physical Description
    a. Rectangular, brown cloth drawstring bag with 2 rows of brown thread sewn to form a channel at the opening for the white cloth drawstring. The drawstring loops around to form a handle.
    b. Rectangular wooden box covered with heavily worn black paper and cloth. A decorative brass clasp on a rectangular metal back plate riveted to the front of the lid closes over a rivet on a brass plate on the base. The interior is lined in red velvet that also acts as the back hinge connecting the base and lid. The base has a recessed space to fit the knife (c); the lid has one to fit the handle.
    c. Rectangular, polished, sharp, forged steel knife blade with a diagonal top corner. It is a full tang knife which means that the handle pieces are attached in sections on each side of the knife so the tang remains visible. At the point where the blade narrows to become a handle, there is a rectangular, brass bolster with a silver rivet. Next, on each side of the tang is a long, rectangular, off-white, horn handle section with a curved end, attached with 4 rivets. According to shehitah law, the blade used must be sharp, smooth, polished, without nicks, and be twice the width of the animal’s throat. Thus a different sized knife must be used different animals.
    d. Stiff rectangular loop of brown leather hand sewn together where the ends overlap. The loop was used with the knife case (b) to keep it closed.
    e. Rectangular, creased and frayed, once white cloth covered with blood stains and other markings. It was used to wipe the blade or whetstone after use and kept as a wrap for the knife (b) and case (c).
    f. Rectangular wooden box covered with worn black leather. A decorative brass metal clasp on a rectangular metal back plate riveted to the front of the lid closes over a rivet on a brass plate on the base. The interior is covered in red velvet that also acts as the back hinge connecting the base and lid. The base has a recessed space to fit the knife (g); the lid has one to fit the handle.
    g. Rectangular, polished, sharp, forged steel knife blade with a diagonal top corner. It is a full tang knife which means that the handle pieces are attached in sections on each side of the knife so the tang remains visible. At the point where the blade narrows to become a handle, there is a rectangular, brass bolster. Next, on each side of the tang is a long, rectangular, off-white, horn handle section with a curved, diagonal end, attached with 3 rivets. According to shehitah law, the blade used must be sharp, smooth, polished, without nicks, and be twice the width of the animal’s throat. Thus a different sized knife must be used different animals.
    h. Irregularly shaped, torn, once white cloth with blood and other stains and holes. It was used to wipe the blade or whetstone after use and as a storage wrap for the whetstone (i).
    i. Heavy, rectangular, polished dark gray pumice or whetstone with usage lines on the top. The sides are slightly polished. The edges are slightly rounded from use and small indentations and marks on the stone expose light gray stone. The whetstone was stored wrapped in cloth (h).
    j. Large, square, light brown cloth with two unfinished ends. It has brown-red stains and small tears. It was used to wipe the knife blade after use and as a storage wrap for the knife (l) and case (k).
    k. Long, narrow, rectangular, lightly varnished brown wooden knife case with a sliding lid that pivots on a screw that attaches the lid to the base; the top swings to the left. At the opposite end, a wedge of wood is glued to the base and cut at an angle to meet the angled lid edge. The base interior has a recessed space to fit the knife and a notch for the thumb to lift it out. The interior is lined with black velvet. The underside of the lid is unfinished and has Hebrew text written in the center and along the edge. This case housed knife (l).
    l. Rectangular, polished, sharp, forged steel knife blade with a diagonal top corner. It is a full tang knife which means that the handle pieces are attached in sections on each side of the knife so the tang remains visible. At the point where the blade narrows to become a handle, there is a rectangular, brass bolster with a silver rivet. Next, on each side of the tang is a long, rectangular, off-white, horn handle section with a curved, diagonal end, attached with 3 rivets. According to shehitah law, the blade used must be sharp, smooth, polished, without nicks, and be twice the width of the animal’s throat. Thus a different sized knife must be used different animals. This knife was kept in case (k).
    m. Rectangular, wrinkled, once white cloth with unfinished edges covered with multiple red/brown spots and staining. . It was used to wipe the blade or whetstone after use and kept as a wrap for the knife (l) and case k).
    n. Rectangular, polished, dark and light gray pumice or whetstone with slightly worn corners. There is a manufacturer’s stamp on the top. The reverse is not polished.
    Dimensions
    a: Height: 13.250 inches (33.655 cm) | Width: 9.500 inches (24.13 cm)
    b: Height: 0.880 inches (2.235 cm) | Width: 10.250 inches (26.035 cm) | Depth: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm)
    c: Height: 9.000 inches (22.86 cm) | Width: 1.120 inches (2.845 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    d: Height: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Width: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm) | Depth: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    e: Height: 10.500 inches (26.67 cm) | Width: 29.000 inches (73.66 cm)
    f: Height: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Width: 8.120 inches (20.625 cm) | Depth: 1.880 inches (4.775 cm)
    g: Height: 7.500 inches (19.05 cm) | Width: 0.880 inches (2.235 cm) | Depth: 0.380 inches (0.965 cm)
    h: Height: 29.000 inches (73.66 cm) | Width: 28.000 inches (71.12 cm)
    i: Height: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Width: 7.880 inches (20.015 cm) | Depth: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm)
    j: Height: 29.880 inches (75.895 cm) | Width: 28.250 inches (71.755 cm)
    k: Height: 10.880 inches (27.635 cm) | Width: 1.620 inches (4.115 cm) | Depth: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    l: Height: 7.380 inches (18.745 cm) | Width: 0.880 inches (2.235 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    m: Height: 17.000 inches (43.18 cm) | Width: 19.750 inches (50.165 cm)
    n: Height: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm) | Width: 7.880 inches (20.015 cm) | Depth: 2.000 inches (5.08 cm)
    Materials
    a : cloth, thread
    b : wood, cloth, adhesive
    c : metal, horn
    d : leather, thread
    e : cloth
    f : wood, leather, cloth, metal, adhesive
    g : metal, horn
    h : cloth
    i : pumice
    j : cloth
    k : wood, cloth, metal, adhesive
    l : metal, horn
    m : cloth
    n : pumice
    Inscription
    k. lid, interior, top, ink : Hebrew text
    k. lid, interior, left side, ink : Hebrew text

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The shehitah instrument 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​/irn7129

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