Jewish group petitions Poland for safe return of Torah scrolls hidden in monastery

The Depths Holocaust commemoration organization seeks to retrieve 35 Torah scrolls stolen by Polish priest 70 years ago in his bid to decipher “hidden secrets.”

By Yori Yalon


Thirty-five Torah scrolls were recently discovered in Polish monastery, where they have been hidden since the Holocaust.

Jonny Daniels, founder and chairman of The Depths, with the Torah scrolls

It is believed the scrolls, which represent a significant historical find, were stolen over 70 years ago by a local priest, a known anti-Semite who sought to uncover secrets believed to have been hidden by Jews in the sacred books.

For decades, the scrolls were kept in the monastery’s rundown basement. Jonny Daniels, founder and chairman of The Depths, a Holocaust commemoration organization, learned of the scrolls’ existence, and after months of negotiating with the heads of the Polish Church, was granted entry to the monastery, where he could see the scrolls for himself.

“Seeing 35 Torah scrolls sitting on dirty shelves in a Polish monastery offended my Jewish soul, because of the blatant disregard shown to the scrolls,” Daniels said in a special interview with Israel Hayom.

“Some of the books are torn and can’t be used, so unless we find someone who will able to repair them we’ll have to bury them. However, the majority of Torah scrolls are in good shape, and can be put back to use.”

Under Jewish law, burial is the only method of disposal for sacred objects deemed unfit for use.

Daniels said that when he first saw the scrolls, “all I wanted to do in that moment was to immediately rescue the scrolls and return them to synagogues around the world. They were disrespected for 70 years — that’s long enough. Christians don’t understand what Torah scrolls mean to us. After having explained the issue, I expect them to return the books to the Jewish people.”

While the heads of the Polish Church agreed to give Daniels the scrolls, they appear reluctant to return them to Jewish hands. But Daniels has no intention of giving up.

“I expect the Polish government to intervene and see to the scrolls’ immediate return to the Jewish people. It is another affront that the Polish Church and government haven’t released the scrolls — they are Jewish property and the Polish government has a moral obligation to see they are returned,” he said.

“There are Jewish communities that don’t have their own Torah scrolls. Ensuring the return of these scrolls will be our biggest victory. We have to rescue these Torah scrolls and ensure they are entrusted in Jewish hands. I’m trying to save the Jewish people’s history.”

The Depths organization has enlisted the help of Polish attorneys, who have volunteered their services to ensure the scrolls’ safe return.

“These scrolls are akin to Holocaust survivors,” Daniels said.

“In 10 or 20 years, when Holocaust survivors are no longer with us, these Torah scrolls will tell the story of the Holocaust for them.

“Every Shabbat, when these Torah scrolls are taken out in synagogues in Israel or around the world, everyone will know these scrolls survived the Holocaust. As long as these scrolls are kept in the monastery it perpetuates the wrong committed against the Jewish people.”


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