The Lost World of a Wedding Comedian – The Story of Avraham Horowitz

Avraham Horowitz (Gurewitz), a wedding merrymaker by profession, wrote poems, novels and novellas in Yiddish and Hebrew. He also adapted and modified the works of others, signing with his own name or with a variety of pen names in Yiddish and Russian.


The Faust Family Jewish Klezmer orchestra, Rohatyn, 1912. (Wikipedia)

The Avraham Horowitz archive was handed over to Professor Dov Noy in 1974 by Horowitz’s grandson Meir, with the purpose of it being permanently deposited in the National Library. This was carried out only when the Dov Noy archive was transferred to the National Library in 2018. The Avraham Horowitz archive contains manuscripts, poems, novels, essays, anecdotes and other writings relating to the profession of merrymaking, as well as an autobiography and correspondence with his son Shaul-Hoshea Horowitz (1886-1956) and his family from Brooklyn.

Avraham Horowitz was born to his parents Israel and Elka on February 26th, 1863 in the city of Borisov, in the district of in White Russia. His family of nine was not wealthy. His father earned his living as a melamed (religious teacher), while his mother supplemented the family’s livelihood as a cook in the wedding kitchens of the rich.

As a young man, Avraham studied in the cheder (traditional elementary Jewish school) where his father and one of his uncles taught. Afterward, he attended the local yeshiva in Borisov for thirteen years.

Avraham was not a very diligent yeshiva student, but he liked the joyous atmosphere of the rich weddings he used to attend when he accompanied his mother in her work. There he enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere and formed an emotional attachment with the merrymakers and the Klezmer musicians. The mother made sure that his father would remain unaware of his son’s new friendships with the local comedians.

Avraham would secretly  read pulp fiction stories that he borrowed from the local book-merchant and author Hillel Klivanov. Since Klivanov had a physical disability, Avraham used to help him and write down the poems that Klivanov dictated to him.

At the age of sixteen, Avraham wrote his first poem in Yiddish, a lid fun Chaya-Rone-Meren (“A Poem about Chaya-Rona Mere”), which told the story of the boys and girls who would roam the local forest together on Sabbaths and holidays. The poem was written in a tone that was not acceptable in the society to which his family belonged. When his father found out about the poem, Avraham even received lashes for it.

When the conflict between him and his father grew worse, he left the house and lived with a relative who owned a kiosk at the train station in Borisov. Abraham worked there as a porter, carrying suitcases and unloading freight cars. Later he became a guard at a textile factory. There he had an accident. His right hand became stuck in the wheel of a weaving machine and broke in three different places. Avraham was interned in a hospital in Minsk, where the doctors had to amputate his arm past his elbow. After his release from the hospital, he returned home to his parents for recovery. There he received support and encouragement. As time passed, Avraham learned to write with his left hand. In 1881 he composed the poem der umglicklicher (“The Unlucky One”), in which he expressed strong remorse for the rebelliousness against his parents which had led him to leave the family home. This poem should not be confused with the poem der umglicklicher yidele (“The Unfortunate Jew”), written in 1884, which tackled the subject of Jewish life in the Exile.

דער אונגליכליכער יידעלע
The first of the six verses of the poem der umglicklicher yidele written in the years of the pogroms in White Russia. (To view the poem, click on the image.) Below is the first verse in my free translation from the original Yiddish:

“There, deep in the forest,

From where comes no answer,

There, where there is no rest,

My life becomes a nightmare!

There screams the Jew; He is very angry:

Why all this torture, oy?

He is frightened and shivers badly,

Now he is in Raswoy*.

Hear it! How he shrieks,

How he cries for weeks:

What is the vice for which you blame me

What have I done?

What should I’ve done?

But the Jew gets no mercy. “

(* Probably the name of a place)

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Avraham became a wedding merrymaker (a badchan, a joke-teller or comedian) by chance. It happened once that the Klezmer musicians from the local orchestra in Borisov came to Hillel Klivanov, bringing with them the famous wedding jester known as Chaimke, who was also a member of the Klivanov family. On that day, two weddings were being celebrated at once – one in Borisov and the other in one of the neighboring villages. Chaimke the merrymaker, who had no substitute in the region, decided to perform at the wedding in Borisov. Thus, it was suggested to Avraham that he attend the wedding in the neighboring village and performing there as a jester in Chaimke’s place. Avraham agreed, since he had composed his own poems and limericks and was fairly well versed at coming up with sarcastic barbs as well.

וכך הוא היה מונה
Five out of the seven verses of the song Echad Mi Yodea? Horowitz would perform at weddings (apparently, the manuscript is not Horowitz’s own). This is a Jewish wedding folk song, which was popular at the time. The song is a combination of three different elements: a song based on the Mishnah from the Yom Kippur service, the traditional Echad Mi Yodea song from the Passover Haggadah and the Seven Blessings recited under the Chuppah (the canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony). Horowitz used many terms, phrases and even whole sentences in Hebrew. (To view the item click on the picture). Here is the sixth verse of the song in my free translation from the original Yiddish:

“And so it was, and so he counted.

Let us open with an explanation

Six, who knows?’

Let us begin to explain

Six, what can they be?

Six are the in-laws, luckily

Ready to count all their money.”

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For the 1955 recording of the wedding song Echad Mi Yodea by Sam Trooper from the National Sound Archive, click here

Avraham bought himself a thick notebook, in which he wrote down the popular songs and the poems of the period. He compiled Hilel Klivanov’s songs and adapted them to a style acceptable for Jewish weddings. Abraham also composed poems and songs of his own, and even sang or recited them to entertain the guests of the weddings at which he performed. Apart from his performances in the city of Borisov, which was where Chaimke Klivanov usually performed, Avraham would also make appearances in the many surrounding towns and villages. Finally, he settled down in the city of Berezino (Berzin) which lacked its own comedian. He built up a local reputation, got married and remained in Berezino for the rest of his life.

He was said to have the appearance of “a quiet fool”. Behind his back, they called him “Avrahamel der marshelik” (Avraham the clown), but officially, he was called “Rabbi Avraham badchan” (Rabbi Avraham the Comedian). In the towns surrounding Berezino, he was referred to as “der Bereziner marshelik” (The clown from Berezino), or “der odnaruker”, which means “the amputee” in Russian and Yiddish.

Avraham Horowitz had a beautiful baritone voice, long hair, and on his little finger he regularly wore a thick ring and wore a short coat. His clothes were not new, but perfectly polished and clean, including his trademark short coat. Under the chuppah and in the bridal seat, Avraham would wear a silk kippah or yarmulke.

He had earned his living as a wedding merrymaker for more than thirty years, but the last twenty were difficult. The customs of the Jewish community changed, weddings celebrations grew smaller and more modest, and there was hardly any need for jesters and comedians. Therefore, to earn some extra income, Horowitz bought  in partnership with others an industrial shredder. He then opened a small grocery store and even rented an apartment out for members of the Bund (the General Federation of Jewish Workers in Russia), where they would hold their meetings. During the High Holy Days, he served as a cantor in one of the local synagogues. Following the Russian Revolution he suffered from financial distress and became a guard on a landowner’s estate.

Avraham Horowitz also wrote a poem dedicated to the memory of Theodor Herzl, marking the anniversary of the Zionist visionary’s passing:

הערצעלס יארצייט
This page includes, among other things, the song Herzl’s Yohrzeit (To view the item, click on the image) Here are the first two verses of the song in my free translation:

“Come, my people, the exile nation

Come into the  shul today, not tomorrow

Spill your tears there in lamentation

Full of grief and  sorrow.

On the  day he  died

Herzl, the hero of the nation

Zion’s light became slight

On the dead land of annihilation.”

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During his lifetime, only the first two chapters of his novel der schwartzer peltz mit’en weissen kallner (The Black Fur Coat with the White Collar) were published in Minsk in 1928. He was sixty-eight years old when he began to rewrite his works and sent them to his son Saul Hosea. On the recommendation of Dr. Yaakov Shatsky, Avraham Horowitz wrote memoirs, based on recollections of local people as well as other sources, in order to document and preserve the wedding customs of the period. This collection of memoirs was meant to be published in volume 2 of the book “Archiv far Geschichte fun Yiddishen Teather und Drame” (Archive of the History of Yiddish Theater and Drama), but the book remained unpublished due to the outbreak of World War II.

Avraham Horowitz became blind in his old age and sought the help of doctors in Minsk, but without success. In the last two years of his life he suffered from paralysis, and died, completely blind, on December 30th, 1940, thirteen days after the death of his wife. He was buried in the cemetery in Berezino.

(The article above is based on biographical notes, written in Yiddish, by Avraham’s son Shaul-Hoshea Horowitz)

“Shabbat” – the front page of a humoristic article in Yiddish handwritten by Avraham Horowitz. (To view the item click on the picture)
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זכור אב נמשך
“Remember, a father is drawn after you like water” – the front page of a humoristic Yiddish article handwritten by Avraham Horowitz. It was probably intended for a Bris performance. (To view the item click on the picture)
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די פרויליכע מיידלאך
The first two pages of a three-part novel about the Polish revolt “The Happy Girl”. (To view the item click on the picture)

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מכתב אל שאול
Letter from Avraham and Ravia Horowitz to their son Shaul-Hoshea and his family in the United States (Lipshe his wife and their son Meir), 1931. (To view the item click on the picture)

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מכתב אל י' שאצקי
The first page of a letter in Yiddish by Avraham Horowitz to Dr. Jacob Shatzky, Berezino, March 6th, 1832. (To view the item click on the picture)

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מכתב דחיית השיר "האלוקים אנה לידי"
A letter rejecting the publication of the poem “God did it to my arm (?)” from the editorial board of the HaDoar weekly newspaper, June 9th, 1939. (To view the item click on the picture)

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השיר "האלוקים אנה לידי"
The poem “God did it to my arm (?)” sent by Avraham’s son, Shaul-Hoshea Horowitz, to the editorial board of the Israeli weekly “HaDoar” which was later rejected on June 9th, 1939. (To view the item click on the picture)

View this item in the Archives of the National Library of Israel

מכתבים ממאיר הורוויץ אל דב נוי
Two letters in Yiddish from Meir Horowitz (the grandson of Avraham Horowitz) from New York to Dov Noy in Jerusalem, in which he expresses his desire to permanently deposit his grandfather’s collection in the National Library. Brooklyn, October 22nd, 1974 and January 26th, 1975. (To view the item click on the image)

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The Avraham Horowitz Archive has been reviewed and described thanks to the generous support of The Leir Foundation.

The “New Haman” of Frankfurt

The Jews of Frankfurt established a second Purim in 1616 in celebration of the downfall of a new Haman who tried to eradicate the local Jewish community.


Postcard from the end of the 19th-century featuring an illustration by Hermann Junker of a Jewish family in Germany celebrating Purim. Image from the Folklore Research Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

My grandfather’s book collection was impressive. With him, it was hard to play the usual game of guessing someone’s personality through their selection of books because he spent the later decades of his life as a bookbinder in Jerusalem and had a love for the physical material of books. His bookshelves included all sorts of books that people had left him or that he had found and fixed. That being said, I can’t be sure that the old siddur I have from him is the one that he actually used.

The Sfas Emes siddur is fairly famous in Germany. It was first published in Rödelheim by Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim in 1799 and is still being re-published in the German-speaking Jewish world today. Almost every page makes mention of the special liturgical traditions of Frankfurt. In Frankfurt, one says such and such, in Frankfurt one changes the order, in Frankfurt this word is omitted.

I was using my copy of the siddur that I got from my grandfather for a while, trying to get the feel of it, when I noticed an interesting note. Within the list of ‘happy’ days – days of celebration and holidays on which it is inappropriate to say the penitential prayer called Tachanun, the note adds “In Frankfurt-am-Main, also Frankfurter Purim [is celebrated] on the 20th of Adar.”

I’m a big fan of regular Purim but had never heard of Frankfurter Purim. I decided to do a bit of research and this is what I learned.

purim frankfurt
A book from the National Library collection on Jewish customs in Frankfurt, published in 1723. These pages describe the customs of Purim Vintz.

Frankfurter Purim, also called Purim Vintz, celebrates a local miracle on the 20th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, just six days after the holiday of Purim. In 1614, a local baker and troublemaker named Vincent Fettmilch who considered himself to be the “New Haman” lead the city guilds in an uprising against the new Emperor. Included in their demands for lower taxes were also demands for fewer Jews in town and lower interest rates on Jewish loans.

When the Emperor ignored or rejected the demands of the city guilds, Fettmilch led a mob to ransack the Jewish quarter of Frankfurt, burning, fighting, and pillaging until the entire Jewish population was forced to flee. Two years later, in February of 1616, Emperor Matthias had Vincent Fettmilch and five of the other rebels hanged, and the Jews were allowed to safely return to the city. The proximity of the hanging to Purim that year, as well as the resonances of the Purim story, encouraged the community to celebrate the return as a mini-redemption, with special songs and a long poetic retelling of the story in Judeo-German called “Megillat Vintz.”

purim vintz
This 18th-century calender mentions Purim Vintz. From the National Library archives.

Frankfurt is not alone. In many Jewish communities throughout history, local episodes of near-destruction and sudden salvation have been marked along the lines of Purim. Reading through the history books and discovering hints of Purim Narbonne, Cairo Purim, Purim Hebron, Purim of Saragossa and the four Purims of Ancona, Italy, to mention just a few, is a fascinating experience.

The echoes of these celebrations are still felt today. In his latest halachic (Jewish law) treatise, Peninei Halacha, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed defends the religious obligation to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), despite voices that claim that creating holidays after the destruction of the Temple is forbidden, by citing the precedent of Purim Frankfurt.

purim vintz
A closer view of the 18th-century calendar mentioning Purim Vintz. The calendar shows that a fast was held on the 19th day of the Jewish month of Adar ahead of the holiday that was held on the 20th. From the National Library archives.

For me, now, living and continuing my rabbinical studies in Berlin, these stories of local Purims bring life and complexity to the country I now live in, connecting me to libraries and synagogues in Frankfurt and Jerusalem. Nobody in Frankfurt today celebrates Purim Vintz, as far as I know, and since my grandfather z”l has passed away, I cannot ask whether this was the siddur he grew up with. The Jewish story is colorful and complicated, and having a story like Purim being retold and made continually relevant is an inspiration for me today.



This article has been published 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.

The Women Who Captivated Muslim Travelers of the Middle Ages

Descriptions of Muslim travel in the middle ages reveal exotic marriage customs and a meeting with a Jewish doctor expelled from Spain


13th century illustration of pilgrims on their way to Mecca

The pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, called the hajj in Arabic, is one of the five central commandments in Islam. Every believing Muslim is obligated to fulfill this commandment at least once in his life. But, for Muslims in the middle ages, it was only one of many opportunities for Muslims to explore the far-reaching Muslim empires.

These empires were dominated by trade, and the imperial trade routes offered merchants and adventurers countless opportunities to leave their homes and see new places.

Cover of “Muslim Travels in the Middle Ages”


Among the hundreds of thousands of books and manuscripts stored in the Islam and the Middle East Collection at the National Library of Israel is a book that looks innocent enough. It title is  الرحالة المسلمون في العصور الوسطى or “Muslim Travels in the Middle Ages” tells the stories of some of these travelers and provides a glimpse into the strange and distant land they encountered on their journeys.

A sketch of the earth by Muhammad al-Idrisi, born 1100 in Spain. One of the great Muslim geographers

Among the many names in the book, the most famous is probably that of Ibn Battuta, who lived in the 14th century. The words of the renowned scholar and Muslim traveler illustrate in great detail the Muslim custom of taking an additional, local wife when one arrives in a new land. Whenever he was in a particular country for business, he would stay with his local wife (or wives). We know that Ibn Battuta had at least six different wives during his lifetime – two in Egypt and four in the Maldives. Of the women he met in the Maldives he said:

“Marriage is easy on these islands. Dowry is rare, and it is good and proper to socialize with women…they never leave their country, and I have never seen anything more beautiful in the world than these women… [here he includes a description of how these women pleasure their men] and the custom is that the woman does not eat with her husband, and that the man does not know what his wife eats.”


Kill an enemy to marry a woman. Soleiman al-Tajir’s description from the book.

Another example of marriage customs is seen in the travel diary of Soleiman al-Tajir, who wrote about his travels to ninth-century India. “There is much gold there. They eat coconuts and use them to fight and draw. If any of them wants to get married he need but bring a man’s skull back from their enemies. Killing two people allows him to marry twice, and he who kills fifty will marry fifty women…”

In Morocco, North Africa, the traveler Zakariya ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini  (1203-1283) came across a city that had very different customs than any other found by previous travelers. This was the city of women. Al-Qazwini wrote, “They are women whose men do not control them. They ride horses and engage in war all on their own. They have strength and power…and they have slaves. Every servant belongs to his mistress, and they rise before the dawn.”

Muslim travelers did not only meet women on their journeys, however. Abd al-Basset tells of an encounter with a Jewish doctor he met in Algeria in the 15th century. At the end of this century, all Jews and Muslims who refused to convert to Christianity were expelled from Spain. He writes, “I needed the most skilled physician Musa Ben Samuel Ben Yehuda of Israel…I have not heard of or seen one so skillful and professional in his field as he, knowledgeable in contemporary science as well as in ancient science…he is of the Jews of Spain originally and is a great expert in the field… “

Thanks to Tehila Bigman of the National Library’s Arabic catalogue for her help in translating the excerpts and in composing this article.

If you liked this article, try these:

The Package is Secure: How Jewish Women Were Smuggled to Safety in 19th Century Italy

Meet Emilia Morpurgo: A Female Ritual Slaughterer from Italy

The Scholar who Changed the Morning Blessing

How Bergen-Belsen Survivors Celebrated Independence

Take a rare look inside the newspapers published by the inhabitants of the concentration camp after liberation.

Survivors from Bergen-Belsen immigrating to the land of Israel. A photograph from the album, “Destruction and Rebirth: Bergen-Belsen 1945-1965”

The Bergen-Belsen camp was established in Germany in the 1930s to house workers who were constructing a military camp near the village of Belsen. The camp held Polish, French, Dutch and Belgian prisoners of war at the beginning of World War II. In 1941, thousands of Russian prisoners of war were detained at the camp.

At the same time, the German Foreign Ministry ordered the rounding up of Jews with dual citizenship or citizenship of neutral countries in order to exchange them for German citizens who had been taken captive in the Allied countries, such as the German Templar communities in Palestine. In 1943, SS Commander Heinrich Himmler ordered that these “exchange Jews” (Austauschjuden) be moved from a camp in Poland to a camp in Germany. The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was chosen as the new detention center for these Jews. The lives of a few of the “exchange Jews” were spared when they were returned to their country of origin in exchange for captured Germans. The vast majority, however, did not share this fate.

Within a short time, other European Jews joined the “exchange Jews” at the camp. In the spring of 1944, transports of ill Jews arrived from other camps. Their compromised state of health, combined with the abusive treatment in the camp, greatly increased the mortality rate at Bergen-Belsen. Later, the Germans transferred in Jews from other camps that were deemed too close to the eastern front, including those who had survived the death marches. The camp administration had never planned to hold such a large number of prisoners, and Bergen-Belsen soon became a place of widespread starvation, typhus, dysentery, suffering, and death.


The camp’s survivors sit, packed together. A photograph from the album, “Destruction and Rebirth: Bergen-Belsen 1945-1965”

On April 15, 1945, British armed forces arrived at the site, liberated the camp and arrested its Nazi administrators. The British were shocked by what they saw. One of the first officers to arrive was the chief medical officer of the Second Army, Glyn Hughes. He described a terrible density of humanity in the barracks, where the living and the dead lay side by side. More than 40,000 prisoners were found in the camp, 28,000 of whom required medical treatment. Among the living prisoners, the British also found 10,000 bodies. Thousands of other bodies were found piled in mass, uncovered graves at the edge of the camp,

The British army, the Red Cross and later, Jewish aid organizations such as the Joint, the Jewish Relief Unit, the Jewish Agency, and other organizations sent food, clothing, medical supplies, and relief workers. Sadly, these efforts did not always succeed in helping the starving and sick prisoners. In the weeks following the liberation of the camp 15,000 people died. In most cases however, the survivors’ will to live overcame the compromised state they were found in.

The pictures in the history books change with surprising speed. In the first few pages, we see pictures of horrifying scenes – heaps of dead bodies alongside walking skeletons waiting desperately for their last day. But, shortly following, are group photos featuring smiling, healthy faces and well-dressed children kicking a ball around. In short order, the survivors began to rebuild their lives. Three days after the liberation, on the 5th of Iyar, the date on which David Ben-Gurion would announce the establishment of the State of Israel just three years later, a Jewish committee was established in the camp. The chairman of the committee, from its establishment until the eventual closure of the camp, was Josef Rosensaft.

On May 21, after all the prisoners had been transferred to a nearby military base, the British burned down the camp in order to eliminate rampant typhoid. Over time, a series of monuments and memorials were erected in the location where the concentration camp stood.


Crowds watching flames and smoke in the camp’s vicinity after the British forces entered

With the war over, Jewish life developed rapidly in the new Bergen-Belsen camp for displaced persons. The first wedding of survivors was held in June of 1945. Children of survivors – the next generation – were born in the camp. Among them was Shlomo Goldberg who would later devote nearly 50 years of work to the National Library in Jerusalem.

Within a short time, a primary and secondary school, a Yiddish theater, a hospital, sports teams, and a center of Zionist political activism were all established in the camp. Many came to visit the displaced and assist whenever possible. Just as in the pre-war period, the survivors now joined the various Zionist organizations and extensive Zionist activity began to take shape at the camp.

Many works and periodicals were published in the camp, mainly in Yiddish. A booklet containing copies of 58 periodicals, books, poems and more is now kept in the National Library of Israel. All of the works within the booklet were printed at Bergen-Belsen.


A booklet that was published in the camp.

The first periodical issued by the survivors was published on July 12, 1945, in the town of Celle, in the British zone near Bergen-Belsen. The title of the publication was “Undzer Shtime” (“Our Voice”). Printing in Bergen-Belsen itself began with the second issue.

In the first issue, which opens with the Yizkor (memorial) prayer, David Rosenthal wrote about the decision to publish the journal and the reasons behind it. “The Jewish word will be heard in the land of our enemy,” Rosenthal explained. He added that the purpose of the newspaper was “to reflect our daily lives and to make contact with our brothers in the other camps.”

The publication focused on youth education and national Zionist education in general. The newspaper detailed the suffering of the survivors in the camp and fumed at the British closure of the gates to the Land of Israel. It included articles on the history of the Jewish people, Jewish holidays and festivals, Zionism, and settlement. It offered information about what was happening in the camp, news from the Land of Israel, reviews of Nazi trials, and more.

Since there was no Hebrew typewriter available in the camp, the first four issues were handwritten and then duplicated for distribution. Issue No. 5 was the first to be written on a typewriter. The camp received one typewriter from soldiers of the Jewish Brigade who came into Germany from Italy, and another from a Jewish-Canadian soldier. Around the time of issue No. 12, members of the editorial board were able to obtain a more professional printing machine.

“Undzer Shtime” was intended to be a bi-weekly magazine, but it was not always published in an organized fashion. During its two years, only 24 issues were published. The last issue was published on October 30th, 1947. The three editors (Rafael Olewski, Paul Trepman, and David Rosenthal) belonged to various Zionist parties, which helped maintain the paper’s neutrality and non-partisan approach.

The “Undzer Shtime” editorial board. From the left: David Rosenthal, Paul Trappman and Rafael Olavsky. A picture from “The Tear,” by Rafael Olavsky

The “Wochenblatt” newspaper began to appear in Bergen-Belsen on December 5, 1947, a week after the passing of the UN resolution to establish a Jewish state. The title of the main article in the first issue was “The End of Homelessness, the End of our Wandering- A Jewish State in the Land of Israel. ” Like its predecessor, this newspaper was also issued by the Central Committee for Liberated Jews in the British Zone in Bergen-Belsen. Members of the editorial board were the same members who served on the editorial board of the “Undzer Shtime.” Over time, as the original editors left Germany, they were replaced by other editors.

After two months, the periodical evolved into a bi-weekly paper. It resembled any other newspaper in that the editors made sure to provide news to its readers but, like “Undzer Shtime,” “Wochenblatt” contained a fair amount of articles about camp life, news from the Jewish world, sports and culture. The “Wochenblatt” advocated for Jewish rights, warned against anti-Semitism in Germany, and published the names of former Bergen-Belsen detainees who had fallen in battle in the Land of Israel. The newspaper called on the Jews to leave Germany, which was still difficult as the struggle for independence in the State of Israel trudged on.

On Friday, May 14, 1948, an important article appeared in the newspaper. It was entitled, “The Eve of a Jewish State.” Although rumors were circulating, the editors had no way of knowing that that very day in the Land of Israel, Ben-Gurion would announce the establishment of the State. The announcement was heard in Bergen-Belsen that night on the radio.

“The Eve of a Jewish State.” Issue No. 19, May 14, 1948

The next morning the camp residents woke to loud singing and cries of joy at the birth of the State of Israel. Jews danced in the streets and in synagogues. The youth distributed flyers in the camp, calling on all residents to celebrate the establishment of the State and to participate in a festive rally to be held later in the day. At the rally the chairman of the Central Committee, Josef Rosensaft, announced that recruits from the camp would soon arrive in Israel to serve in the new Israeli military. The group of recruits was invited onto the stage to thunderous applause.

The next issue of “Wochenblatt,” which came out a week later, was titled “Jewish Independence: Reality.”


“Jewish Independence – Reality.” Issue No. 19, May 21, 1948

In the 79th issue of “Wochenblatt,” Josef Rosensaft wrote that the Bergen-Belsen camp was in its closing stages and that the last Jews in the camp would be moved to the Jever displaced persons camp. It was there that the 80th and final issue of the “Wochenblatt” was published on August 18, 1950. It focused on the conclusion of the Jewish Agency’s activities in Germany. The Jever camp was closed the following year.

In September 2010, the Sh’erit Hapleta survivors organization of Bergen-Belsen in Israel published the newsletter “Our Voice – Undzer Shtime”. This time the newsletter was not printed in Yiddish in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons’ camp, but in the free city of Tel Aviv in the local language of Hebrew.


“Our Voice,” a newsletter issued by the survivors of Bergen-Belsen in Israel