After nearly 80 years, a Hebrew Bible hidden by a Jewish German family that perished in the Holocaust has been returned to their descendants in New York.
Holocaust survivor Susi Kasper Leiter and her grandson Jacob Leiter were reunited with the 1874 Bible this summer.
August 22 will mark 79 years since the Bible’s original owners, Eduard and Ernestine Leiter, were deported from Germany to Theresienstadt, leaving behind the Bible, according to Jo-Ellyn Decker, research and reference librarian for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Survivor and Victims Resource Center.
The Leiters were originally from Stuttgart, but were forced by German authorities to move into a house in Oberdorf along with seven other Jewish families. On August 22, 1942, the families were all sent to Theresienstadt.
“They must have thought to hide their precious few possessions hoping they would return for them, but they never came back,” Decker said.
A few weeks later in September of 1942, the Leiters were said to have been deported from the Theresienstadt Ghetto to Treblinka, where they were killed during the horrors of the Holocaust.
According to the museum, the Bible was found in 1990 in an attic of the old house in Oberdorf during renovations. The family that purchased the home found the Bible behind a double wall, along with other personal items belonging to the Leiters.
For years they carried the Bible, through Leipzig, Kassel, Göttingen, Hanover, Rottweil, and Pinneberg, and had the intention of restoring it, the museum said.
Eventually, in 2017, the family sold the Bible on eBay to German art historian Gerhard Roese.
Roese, realizing the Bible’s significance, created a photo project around it. He later had it placed on display at a local synagogue in Oberdorf.
The synagogue is just a few hundred meters away from the home that had sheltered the Bible for decades.
Recently, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum helped track down the Leiters’ descendants at Roese’s request, to return the Bible to them.
A representative traveled with the Bible from Germany to the US in June to hand-deliver it to Susi Kasper Leiter and Jacob Leiter.
“Twenty-eight members of my own family tragically did not survive the Holocaust,” Susi Kasper Leiter said.
“So when we were notified about the finding and survival of this Bible, I realized that miracles can happen. It is a new connection for my children and grandchildren, to the Leiter family whose name they bear. I am overwhelmed with emotions and memories, and at the same time so grateful to witness this,” she said.
“There are no words to describe the goodness, patience and caring of the wonderful people involved in Germany to make sure that the Bible was returned to its rightful owners,” Susi Kasper Leiter added.
Susi Kasper Leiter, currently living in New York City, survived the Holocaust as a child refugee who came to the United States. She married Max Leiter and the couple had two children, Richard and Steve; and three grandchildren: Alexandra, Samantha, and Jacob.
Max Leiter is the grandson of the Bible’s original owners, Eduard and Ernestine Leiter. He died in 2008.