The Strange Correspondence Between Albert Einstein and a Lawyer from Bnei Brak

“I am neither a mathematician nor a physicist, but I have, nevertheless, discovered a fantastic philosophical method that I will soon be publishing under the title 'The Logic of the World.'”

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna, 1921

By Chen Malul

It was in the year 1947 that Professor Albert Einstein first encountered the name of Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser, when a letter appeared in his mailbox at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. Upon reading the first few lines, a warning light must have gone off in his head. “Yet another letter from an amateur physicist…” he may have told himself.

Dr. Goldwasser sought financial assistance for his own unorthodox research in the field of physics, and this underlying motivation for did not go unnoticed by the renowned physicist. However, many of the abstract ideas in the letter were incomprehensible, even to Albert Einstein, who sent no reply.

The first two pages of the four-page letter Dr. Goldwasser sent to Professor Einstein. From the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People

Abandoning Religion, Abandoning Homeland

Just weeks before his Bar Mitzvah ceremony, the 13-year-old Einstein had lost the religious drive that had characterized his childhood. Max Talmey, a medical student who often visited the Einstein family home and who served as young Albert’s mentor, gave him a number of books on science. These books led the the curious boy to the conclusion that most of the stories of the Bible were false.


14-year-old Albert Einstein, 1894

The poems he had composed and dedicated to the greatness of God all of His creations were now replaced by mathematical formulas. This was the inception of young Albert’s attempts to understand the principles of mathematics and physics and eventually the secrets of the universe itself.

Albert Einstein’s revolutionary research would reshape humanity’s concepts of of time, space, mass, motion, and gravity and would make him famous the world over. It would also make the Jewish physicist a target of the Nazi regime.

At the time of Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933, Einstein was already residing in the United States. The news of what was happening in Germany and the venomous attacks published against him in the German press convinced him to renounce his German citizenship. He also resigned from the Prussian Academy of Sciences. He would never again set foot in Germany.

Einstein received many proposals from academic institutions across the world, including universities in Europe, the United States, and even Mandatory Palestine. In the end, Einstein chose the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in New Jersey. Though Einstein never forgave the Germans, he continued to use the German language as his main method of communication. This was also the language in which Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser wrote to Einstein. Goldwasser was also a Jewish expatriate from Germany, who, unlike Einstein, chose to settle in the Land of Israel.


Albert Einstein, 1947


Reconciling Religion and Science

Goldwasser resent his letter in January of 1948. This time, Einstein took the time to reply:

“I received and read the first letter. Because the content was unclear to me and because I was inundated with letters from amateur physicists, I was unable to reply to your letter, as well as many others.

I apologize and appreciate your understanding.

-Albert Einstein”


Professor Einstein’s reply to Dr. Goldwasser, January 1948


The curt answer from the great 20th century physicist did not dissuade Goldwasser who had fled from Germany to Mandatory Palestine in 1939. In 1941 he arrived in the town of Bnei Brak, known as a center of Hasidic Judaism. Goldwasser held a doctorate in the field of law and ran a full-time law practice, conducting his research of physics in the little spare time he had left. After reading Einstein’s letter of reply, he set about writing yet another letter describing the research he was working on to Einstein – work that he believed was of great importance.

Goldwasser began this letter by stating “I respect your principles of not answering letters from amateur scientists.” He went on to apologize for sending the letter, “I wrote to apologize to you for venturing to contact you, in light of my 25 years of experience of matters of space, with the purpose of suggesting ideas that in my non-expert opinion can improve your research, and bring you closer to the solving the problems with which you are struggling.

Goldwasser added that if such a renowned scientist as Einstein did not understand his groundbreaking ideas, this must mean that standard scientific thought had not yet caught up to the theory he developed – a theory that would “revolutionize the study of space.” He finished the letter in an enigmatic tone, “The last word has not yet been said.”

The quick response letter drafted and sent by Dr. Goldwasser to Professor Einstein, January 1948

Indeed, as Goldwasser predicted, the last word – his, that is – had not yet been uttered. Four years later, Goldwasser sent another letter. This time, it was addressed to Einstein’s team of researchers at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study:

“I know that Professor Einstein is bombarded by letters from people who ish to offer him ‘scientific advice’. Therefore, I turn to you, the scientific team, and ask you to thoroughly read my letter. If you reach a positive conclusion please bring it to Prof. Einstein’s attention.

I am neither a mathematician nor a physicist, but I have, nevertheless, discovered a fantastic philosophical method that I will soon be publishing under the title The Logic of the World. I am currently writing my theory in a methodical manner and this work will keep me busy for some time yet. At best, it will be complete in a year or two. I can only work on it at night.

My theory, as opposed to common philosophy, is based on proof of God’s existence through a clear, scientific method. I believe that as soon as the book is published, I will be able to prove His existence, His divine essence, and His ability to manipulate the world without effort.


I am not saying this merely to shower praise on myself. Anyone with an interest in your field of study would understand and appreciate the work I have already done.

I see the mission of my life in the scientific reconciliation of humanity with God.”

It is unknown who received the letter at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, or whether the letter was actually read and the requested experiments conducted. Goldwasser received no reply to his third and final letter.


The final attempt? The letter Dr. Goldwasser sent to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, October 1952

The Story of the Book that Never Was

A search of the National Library catalog, and catalogs of other libraries, showed no evidence that the book Goldwasser promised to publish ever saw the light of day. The correspondence between Einstein and Goldwasser was recently discovered in Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser’s personal archive, and is now preserved in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People.

In conclusion, we would have loved to explain the revolutionary theory that Dr. Eliezer Goldwasser (later Mei-Zahav) conceived – a theory which (as he promised to Professor Einstein’s team) was intended to reconcile science and God. But, if this theory left one of the most brilliant minds in history perplexed, what chance do we really have?

The article was compiled with the help of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, archivist Inka Arroyo Antezana Martinez, and Franka Metz.


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How 500 Children Were Returned to the Jewish People After the Holocaust

Letters discovered by chance in the National Library archives document Yitzhak Halevi Herzog's historic mission to redeem Jewish children taken in by Christian institutions and families

Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, the David B. Keidan Collection of Digital Images from the Central Zionist Archives

There is a legend told of Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog.

One day in 1946, Rabbi Herzog arrived at a large monastery which was known to have taken in Jewish children sent away by their parents to protect them from the Nazi terror which had ravaged Europe. Now, the time had come for the children to return home.

The Rabbi turned to the Reverend Mother, thanking her for saving the lives of the children and requesting to receive them back to the Jewish People, now that the war was over. The nun was happy to agree, but asked the Rabbi – “How can you know which of the hundreds of children here at the monastery are Jewish?” After all, it had been many months since their parents had sent them there, and many had been mere infants at the time.

Rabbi Herzog assured the Reverend Mother that he would know. He asked to gather all of the children in a large hall, ascended the stage, and cried in a loud voice:

Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad ! (Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One)

Immediately, dozens of children rushed to the stage, shouting “mama!” and “papa!” as tears filled their eyes. Many were sobbing uncontrollably. Though few of the children remembered much of their early lives, the sound of the Shema, the most famous prayer in the Jewish faith, instantly brought back memories of reciting these Hebrew words with their parents before bedtime.

When Yitzhak Halevi Herzog embarked on his famous tour of European orphanages and monasteries, with the goal of locating and retrieving thousands of lost Jewish children, he was serving as the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Mandatory Palestine. He was recognized as an authority on issues of Halacha (Jewish religious law) and was held in great esteem by both religious and secular leaders around the world.

Yitzhak Halevi Herzog as Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi during the British Mandate period, Jerusalem, September 1945. Photo by Zoltan Kluger, GPO.


Herzog absorbed a variety of different cultures during his early life. Born in Łomża, Poland in 1888, his family moved to Leeds, England in his youth and then Paris, France, where Herzog attended the Sorbonne before continuing to the University of London. His groundbreaking doctoral thesis on the nature of the ancient blue dye known as Tekhelet, used during the Second Temple period, was what first made him a public figure.

In 1915, Herzog was appointed Rabbi of the city of Belfast and would later go on to serve for 14 years as the Chief Rabbi of Ireland. He became a supporter of the struggle for Irish independence and the Irish Republican Army. Eamon de Valera, a leader of the revolt against the British and a future President of Ireland, was a personal friend who at times used the Rabbi’s house in Dublin as a hiding spot.

Rabbi Herzog would also become a supporter of the Irgun Zvai Leumi (a.k.a the Irgun or Etzel), the Jewish underground group which fought against the British authorities in the Land of Israel, to which he finally arrived in 1936.

Rabbi Herzog speaks at a pilot certification ceremony at Lydda Airport, in April of 1939. Source: Library of Congress.


The plight of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust tormented Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, and he devoted those years of his life to attempts to prevent the unfolding disaster. In April 1941, Rabbi Herzog was granted an audience with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom he hoped he could convince to act, before it was too late.

According to Herzog’s biographer, Shaul Mayzlish, the Rabbi told FDR the following during their meeting:

I call upon his honor, as someone in a position of power, in the name of human conscience, in the name of human liberty, in the name of justice, to prevent the butchering of the Jews and allow the survivors the possibility of reaching safe havens[…] Mr. President, I am not the person who will advise you on how to deal with this terrible problem. I come only with a plea and also a warning. The plea – save what can be saved. The warning – those who stood by will be held accountable in the future.

(“The Rabbinate in Stormy Days”, Shaul Mayzlish, Gefen, 2017)

Though the President promised Herzog he would hold a special meeting on the subject with his advisors, the Rabbi came away disappointed. He felt that FDR was much more concerned with other matters.

After the Allied victory in Europe in May 1945, Rabbi Herzog maintained his focus on the rescue of the continent’s surviving Jews. By his own estimate, at the end of the war, some ten thousand Jewish children were held in secret by Catholic institutions and non-Jewish families who had bravely taken them in for their own safety.

In 1946, Herzog embarked on a six month journey throughout Europe, with the goal of returning the Jewish children to their own families. Before he began the search, he stopped at the Vatican, where he sought the help of Pope Pius XII. The Rabbi came with a message of thanks for the crucial intervention of Catholic institutions in saving young Jewish lives, but also insisted that the children now be released, “Each child is like one thousand children, following this great tragedy,” he told the pontiff.

Pope Pius XII did not issue the papal bull that Rabbi Herzog was hoping for, but the Vatican did assist the Rabbi’s efforts.


While Pius XII did not issue the sweeping public declaration the Rabbi was hoping for, the Vatican was indeed helpful in obtaining the release of many of the children.

During his European trip, Herzog visited France, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, England, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Ireland. Much of the work he and his team faced was bureaucratic: They drew up updated lists of children with the help of the respective governments and local community institutions, and went about seeking Jewish organizations with the authority to assume legal guardianship.

Once the initial information was collected, it was often a matter of searching through individual villages and monasteries, while using the lists as guides. Volunteers from sympathetic organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, were instrumental in this effort.

“…deeply appreciate your realization historic sacred duty to tiny remnants of unprecedented tragedy…” – A telegram from Herzog thanking a contact in Strasbourg for his assistance. The National Library of Israel collections.


There were many cases in which Christian families had formed strong bonds with the adopted children, and they understandably did not want to give them up. “Rescuing the children is difficult when the one you are contending against comes as a brother,” the Rabbi said in one of his speeches.

…about 9 years old, mother taken by Gestapo and never more heard of, father killed by Gestapo…” A description of one of the many orphans Rabbi Herzog attempted to redeem. The National Library of Israel collections. Click to enlarge.


Much of Yitzhak Halevi Herzog’s correspondence from this period is preserved today in the archives of the National Library of Israel. The Library’s archivists were surprised to discover these letters and telegrams among the personal archives of the well-known Jerusalem attorney Alexander Amdur, an associate of Rabbi Herzog’s. Amdur’s archives were donated to the National Library in 2015.

Herzog’s efforts were not limited to children. In this telegram, Rabbi Herzog sought to obtain a French visa for a holocaust survivor by the name of Sonia Friedberg.

The National Library of Israel collections.


And in the Hebrew letter below, one of her relatives in Israel thanks the Rabbi’s son Yaakov for for their efforts on her behalf, noting her difficult personal circumstances.

The National Library of Israel collections
The National Library of Israel collections. Click to enlarge.

The letter reads:

…I thank you very much for your goodwill in helping me obtain an entry visa to France for my relative from Poland.
Her name and address:
Sonia Friedberg,
Lodz, Piotrokowska 80
Her age – about 35.
I am certain that you will do everything in your ability to ease my relative’s situation. She was snatched from the fire, and she is lonely and desolate in a foreign sea of hatred, in the land where her parents, husband and other relatives perished…

One of Herzog’s most effective partners in the effort to retrieve Jewish children was the Polish-Jewish activist Yeshayahu Drucker, who would approach families and institutions who had taken in Jewish children, often offering money and gifts in exchange for their release. Rabbi Herzog’s political connections were critical in raising these funds.

This Hebrew document contains a partial list of the names, ages and locations of children redeemed by Yeshayahu Drucker.

The National Library of Israel collections. Click to enlarge.


The letter below was addressed to Yaakov Herzog from the “Zionist Coordination Committee for the Redemption of Jewish Children”. It concerns one of the children redeemed by Yeshayahu Drucker.

The National Library of Israel collections.

The letter reads: “…As per your request, the girl Naomi Barter, born in Lodz in 1937, was redeemed from the foreigners by Rabbi Drucker and is now at the sacred communities’ orphanage […] As the expenses of this matter reached a sum of three hundred and twenty thousand zloties and you in your letter write that your American friends committed to participating in the expense of one hundred, we request that you inform us of the method by which we can receive the above sum…”


Naomi Barter, the National Library of Israel collections.


The Hebrew words below were addressed to Rabbi Herzog on behalf of  a group of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust. The exact date and origin is unclear, but they were likely read in his presence.

The National Library of Israel collections.


“We the children of the surviving remnant (Sh’erit ha-Pletah) are very happy to receive our distinguished Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Erzog [sic] and we promise to him that we shall make Aliyah and help build the Land. God willing, we shall live to see the liberated Jewish State, in the spirit of our Torah.”

In October of 1946, over 500 of the redeemed Jewish children boarded a train in Katowice, Poland, which then made the long journey all the way to Mandatory Palestine. These children would soon become citizens of the State of Israel, founded 19 months later.

Upon the declaration of independence in 1948, Yitzhak Halevi Herzog became Israel’s first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. His son Chaim Herzog would later become President of the Jewish State. His grandson Isaac Herzog is today the Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the former Head of the Opposition.

You can find more of Rabbi Herzog’s correspondence from his famous rescue mission, here.

Hagit Zimroni of the Archives Department at the National Library of Israel assisted in the preparation of this article.


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The Doctor Who Treated Herzl in Exchange for an Autograph

Meet the doctor who helped Herzl get to the podium in time to open the Fourth Zionist Congress in London

On our wall at home hangs a framed facsimile of a letter and a signed photograph of Theodor Herzl. It’s a treasured heirloom, copies of which are held by various members of my wife’s family. The inscription on the photograph dated September 1900 translates as:

“A pleasant reminder from the rapidly healing London patient. Theodore Herzl”

“A pleasant reminder from the rapidly healing London patient.” Photo courtesy of the family of Leopold Liebster.

London was the setting for the fourth Zionist Congress. This was the first time that the gathering had been held outside of Basel, Switzerland. The suggestion to take it to London was not one that Herzl had at first been enthusiastic about but he changed his mind for two reasons: Firstly, with the recent arrival of many Jews in London due to pogroms in Romania, Herzl saw in the plight of these immigrants an opportunity to highlight the need for a Jewish homeland, since the solution of charity from anti-Zionist Jews was clearly not working. Secondly, he felt that the movement had outgrown Basel and identified that the message of Zionism could be broadcast widely through reports published by the British press across her current and former colonies.

As Herzl announced in his opening remarks to the congress:

“England, great England, free England, England that looks across the seven seas, will understand us and our aspirations. From here the Zionist idea will fly ever higher; of this we may be sure.”

Theodor Herzl, the Abraham Schwadron Portrait Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.

More than this strategic objective, Herzl, it would appear, was something of an Anglophile, or at least, he knew how to flatter his hosts. In an article published in Die Welt in early June of that year, he enthusiastically welcomed support for holding the congress in London expressed by the Jewish Chronicle, hitherto ambivalent about the Zionist cause. In response to the newspaper’s suggestion that British Jews will benefit from the congress coming to London, he wrote:

“We shall go even further and express our belief that the non-English Jews will have far more to gain from this encounter because they will absorb good English manners, the honesty of all the discussions, and the advantages of a mature, advanced culture. They will keep all these as precious memories.”

I wonder if he would say the same today…

Nonetheless, there was every chance that the English audience might never have heard Herzl speak because, when he arrived in London on August 7, 1900, he was suffering from a high fever and spent the initial days of his visit confined to his bed at the Langham Hotel.

In the days prior to the congress, Herzl called for a physician, but he was particular about who he would allow to treat him. The doctor had to be Viennese trained and be a Zionist. It’s doubtful that you could count the number of people in London who fit those criteria on one hand, but somehow, a doctor named Leopold Liebster was found in London’s East End where the country’s largest population of Jews lived.

Dr. Leopold Liebster. Photo courtesy of the Liebster family.

Under Dr. Liebster’s care, Herzl recovered sufficiently to extract himself from his sick-bed to attend a rally of the English Zionist Federation on August 11th. Herzl was greeted by thousands of enthusiastic supporters eagerly anticipating their leader. He also managed to attend a garden party in Regent’s Park on the 12th, and the opening of the congress the following day.

Herzl’s popularity amongst London’s Jews dated back to a visit some four years earlier when he came as a guest of the Maccabeans, a friendly society of Zionists, whose support for Herzl’s goal of a Jewish homeland in Palestine was significant for the movement’s growth in popularity across the world.

Theodor Herzl in transit. The Abraham Schwadron Portrait Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.

The Congress of 1900 was a great success in terms of its impact on the British media. The mainstream press was universally sympathetic to the cause. Perhaps most importantly, Herzl’s hope of gaining the favor of the British Parliament was achieved with most members expressing their support for the Zionist goal.

Following his treatment, Herzl offered to pay Dr. Liebster’s fee but the physician would hear nothing of it.

The letter sent to Dr. Liebster from Theodor Herzl. Photo courtesy of the family of Leopold Liebster.

The letter that followed, sent on the 19th of August from the Langham Hotel reads:

Dear Dr. Liebster,

When I attempted to send you payment for your medical treatment, our friend Reich told me that you were offended and that (as payment) you were only prepared to receive my picture.  Obviously I remain in your debt but nevertheless have no option other than to do as you request.

It will be my great pleasure in September to send you my picture from Vienna.

Warm thanks for your devoted care.

Ziongrussen (Zionist greetings).


Theodor Herzl

And so, in September 1900, the picture was duly received.

Herzl’s final resting place in the cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, 1993. Photo by IPPA Staff, the Dan Hadani Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel.

Herzl’s health continued to trouble him, and in early 1904 he was diagnosed with a heart condition. He died later that year from sclerosis of the heart at the age of 44. In 1949 his remains were disinterred and reburied on a hill in West Jerusalem that was, at the same time, renamed Mount Herzl. Also known as Har HaZikaron (the Mount of Remembrance), in 1951 the site was established as a cemetery for Israel’s leaders and fallen soldiers.

This post was written as part of Gesher L’Europa, the NLI’s initiative to connect with Europe and make our collections available to diverse audiences in Europe and beyond.


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How European Jews Spent Their Summers Before the Holocaust

From lake houses to spa days, Jews from all over Europe took full advantage of their summer vacations, building memories that would last a lifetime.

In 2000, Centropa set out on a mission to interview and collect stories and photographs from elderly Jews living in Europe. Interviewers spent up to twenty hours with each respondent, asking them to paint a picture of the world they grew up in and the world they rebuilt for their families following the Holocaust.

Many of the interviewees shared beautiful memories of how their families would spend their summers, vacationing in different countries, eating specific foods and spending time together, building these memories that lasted a lifetime.


Lakeside Adventures: Germany, 1927

Rosa Rosenstein and her siblings spent their summer in Bad Buckow.

“Here you can see me with my siblings,” said Rosa. “As you know, Berlin has wonderful lakes. On Wednesday we always went out in paddleboats, and we also went canoeing. I couldn’t swim, but we went rowing. I started learning swimming three times but gave up after the third time. When I tried for the first time, the swimming instructor held me on a fishing-rod and I had to do the movements. The second time, I got a board and I had to push that board ahead of me. In the end, the instructor said, ‘And now without the board.’ That I didn’t do. I was a coward. I was afraid, I do admit, but such is life.

Rosa Rosenstein and her siblings in Bad Buckow, 1927. Photo courtesy of Centropa

During the summer my parents rented a summer apartment. When we were still small, we spent our first summer vacation in Fichtenau by a lakeside. We took beds and dishes with us. My father came to join us on weekends. He was working while we spent the time with our mother. Mother cooked, and we – just like at home – ate noodle soup.”


Days on the Danube: Hungary, 1930

Piroska Hamos shared, “This picture was taken somewhere on the banks of the Danube, but where exactly, I don’t know. Maybe on Szentendre Island, because we went there many times. We often got together with my cousins. They also lived in Matyasfold, the two houses were close by, 5 minutes apart.

My cousins were friends with my husband – relatives, and friends as well. I liked them very much, they were intelligent, well-educated, well-read people. They graduated from secondary school. Back then, it was a big thing if someone graduated from secondary school. They were not married yet, at that time. They were even angry with my husband because he was the first one in the boat group, who got married.

Rowing on the Danube, 1927. Photo courtesy of Centropa

They owned a boat together, and they rented a space for the boat at the first boathouse, next to the Ujpesti Osszekoto bridge. The owner of the boathouse was called Magashazi. As soon as the weather started to be good, they went to lacquer it (the boat) and put it in order. When I joined their group, then I also went along to tidy up the boat and every weekend, we went rowing on the Danube, in two boats.”


Foraging as a Family: Czech Republic, 1932

Chava Pressburger said, “During longer holidays and summer vacation we would always go outside of Prague with our parents. At Christmas and Easter, we would go skiing in the mountains, while summer vacation we spent in the countryside, where our parents rented a bungalow. One place was named Radosovice. It was close to Prague, and our father would come to visit us on the weekends. We were there alone with our mother and the maid. We would go swimming, for walks, picking mushrooms in the forest and so on.”

Chava Pressburger and her family, 1932. Photo courtesy of Centropa


Spa Day with Grandma: Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Pre-1941

Matilda Cerge spoke about spending her vacation at the Vrnjacka Spa.

“I was my grandmother Matilda’s favorite. She practically raised me. I went everywhere with her. She even took me with her to the spas. Twice a year she went to the spas, like Vrnjacka Spa, and she took me with her.

Once, when I was five years old, I went with my grandmother to the spa. Grandmother was very worried that her granddaughter shouldn’t go hungry. We were in a hotel and we had normal meals there. But, it wasn’t enough for her. So she went to the farmers’ market early in the morning to buy kajmak, the wonderful fresh cream that they make there and fresh lepinja, flat rustic bread. She went to buy these things to ensure that her granddaughter didn’t lose one gram.

Matilda Cerge on vacation at the Vrnjacka Spa. Photo courtesy of Centropa

While she was at the market I was locked in the hotel room, so that I wouldn’t go anywhere. While I sat there in the room, bored, waiting for grandmother, I sat by the mirror and started to twist a brush into my hair. When grandmother came she couldn’t untangle the brush and in the end, she had to cut my hair. Her granddaughter, her beauty, instead of having lovely curls, was deformed, with one side longer than the other side. She only cut the one side, the other side she left as it was.”


Sand, Sun and Scouts: Romania, 1936

Arnold Leinweber described his childhood summers spent in camp.

“This photograph was taken in Bugaz [currently Zatoka in Ukraine], in a boy scouts camp in 1936. The tuberculosis sanitarium is visible in the background. At 16, my school sent me to the seaside [by the Black Sea]. I was sent there three times. The third time, the reason was the good job I had done as head of my group at school. This was what led the director of the camp, Dr. Dumitrescu, to summon us there.

I saw the place where the Dniester River flows into the sea [today part of Ukraine]. The water there was clearer than a spring’s, and the beach was very wide, with sand dunes in which the foot would sink. When we had to return to the camp at noon, after having frolicked for hours, we couldn’t walk, but we had to run like crazy to reach the ground because the sand was too hot to walk on. Another nice thing about that place was that there were some very small mollusks in the sea, which died once they were thrown on the shore.

Arnold Leinweber in Boy Scouts Camp, 1936. Photo courtesy of Centropa

In the evening, we would walk on the shore and find phosphorescent lights – the sea was full of shiny little stars. My boy scout’s hat had a sort of lyre-shaped lily on it. I would put these small crawfish on it, and my hat would glow in the dark. I enjoyed scouting very much.

We slept in tents. The tent was partly buried in the sand so that the wind wouldn’t blow it away and the tide wouldn’t drag it to the sea. Some ropes tied it to stakes. There were pretty tall weeds growing there, and we used them to make the base of our tent. We put the tent sheet over it, we stuffed the pillows with weeds, and this was our bedroom. I stayed with the other two heads of groups in a tent of three. Others stayed in tents of six, eight or ten.”


Countryside Bliss: Czech Republic, 1937

Toman Brod said, “We used to spend our summer holidays at the summer house in Libverda. In the summer we used to go to a summer house. If I remember correctly, in the beginning, it was only around Prague, when I was a small child we used to for example go to Revnice. The first bigger holiday event was Doksy, Mach Lake, then for a few years it was Libverda, that’s near Liberec, where we went for about three years, but because it was in the border region, where it wasn’t all that pleasant to be in the 1930s, we spent our last summer vacation, in 1938, at Mala Skala near Turnov.

Toman Brod with his brother, Hanus, on summer vacation, 1937. Photo courtesy of Centropa

We would always go there for two months, the two of us, our mother, the cook, and the nanny. Our father had work, so he wasn’t there regularly, he would come when he had the time, and then would again leave for Prague. Besides us there were also other families there, some three, four would always be there. They were Jews. Some of them were our relatives; some were more distant relatives with whom my mother was in closer contact than with her own. They were women that played bridge with her, and who had children, so we spent our summer vacation with them, we knew them from childhood. We spent beautiful, calm, secure times together.”


This article appears here as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.


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