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Family menorah saved from Holocaust is donated to Yad Vashem

Kafka family’s Hanukkah candelabra was hidden in Poland, then Finland; now resides in Jerusalem Holocaust museum’s new collection center

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

A collection of hanukkiot, Hanukkah candelabras, in the collection of Yad Vashem, including one dedicated on June 26, 2024 (Courtesy)
A collection of hanukkiot, Hanukkah candelabras, in the collection of Yad Vashem, including one dedicated on June 26, 2024 (Courtesy)

A Hanukkah menorah that belonged to a Jewish Polish family decimated by the Holocaust is being placed in the Yad Vashem museum’s new underground Collections Center.

The Kafka family menorah, a silver candelabra standing 70 centimeters (28 inches) high, was gifted to Peretz Blaugrund before World War II.

Blaugrund, who owned and operated a fur production factory in Lodz, Poland, received the menorah from his workers, who engraved his name and their city — “Peretc Blaugrund — Lodz” — on the shamash, the tallest candleholder of the ritual candelabra. The Hanukkah menorah is also known in Hebrew as a hanukkiah.

Blaugrund later celebrated the birth of his niece, Halinka, by inscribing her name and birth year on the menorah as well.

As the Nazis began deporting Jews from the Lodz Ghetto in 1942, Blaugrund entrusted the menorah and some other silver pieces to a Polish Christian family.

Much of his family, including his young niece Halinka, were murdered at Auschwitz.

Peretz Blaugrund, who survived the Holocaust, moved to Helsinki, and eventually rescued a family menorah that was donated to Yad Vashem on June 26, 2024 (Courtesy Yad Vashem)

Blaugrund survived and made his way to Helsinki, Finland, where his brother, Bernard, a soldier in the Russian army during World War I, had settled before World War II.

Their niece, Nena Kafka-Szlezynger — the daughter of their sister, Beyla Rachel Blaugrund — survived the Bergen-Belsen camp and found refuge with her uncles in Helsinki after the war.

Blaugrund eventually returned to Poland to retrieve the menorah and other items he left behind — including Holocaust artifacts, documents, photographs, letters, postage stamps, and even currency from the Lodz ghetto.

Peretz Blaugrund died in 1964.

His niece inherited the family menorah and the other artifacts from her family’s life in Poland.

The Kafka family hanukkiah that was donated to Yad Vashem on June 26, 2024 (Courtesy Yad Vashem)

She married and raised a family in Helsinki, but felt the menorah and other items should be kept in Israel and shared with the larger community. Her daughters, Beyla Kafka Ramot and Raya Kafka, moved to Israel in the 1970s.

Kafka-Szlezynger died earlier this year at the age of 96, and her daughters arranged the donation of the Holocaust artifacts to the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

“It was important to Nena that it would come to Israel, because Israel is the state of the Jews and this menorah is part of the history of the Jews,” says son-in-law David Ramot, who delivered the menorah this week to Yad Vashem. “We knew that the hanukkiah had to reach the Yad Vashem collections in order for it to be preserved for future generations and tell the story of Peretz, Bernard, Halinka and the family.”

The preservation center in Yad Vashem’s new David and Fela Shapell Family Collections Center, opening June 2024 (Courtesy Amit Geron)

The menorah will be kept with thousands of other items in Yad Vashem’s soon-to-be-inaugurated David and Fela Shapell Family Collections Center, which spans five underground levels and houses all of Yad Vashem’s collections. The state-of-the-art facility features the latest conservation laboratories and a staff of specialized preservation experts.

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