A Menorah in Germany, 1931

In 1931, Rosi Posner, wife of Rabbi Arthur Posner, the last rabbi of the prewar Jewish community in Kiel , Germany took this photo of the family Hanukkah menorah from the window ledge of the family home looking out on to the building across the road decorated with Nazi flags.

Some noted that the photo was from Hanukkah 1932, just one month before Hitler came to power, but it was more probably taken on Hanukkah 1931.

Rosi Posner wrote the following on the back of the photo: Chanukah 5692 / (1932) / “Death to Judah” / So the flag says / “Judah will live forever” / So the light answers. The date of 1932 probably referred to when the photo was developed, rather than when it was taken.

Hitler was a year away, but shadows were already lengthening. The depression-haunted Germany, its industries ravaged, its unemployment at 30%, its politics gridlocked, was increasingly looking to national socialism as its savior. In the elections of September 1930, the Nazis won 18% of the seats, a share that would double in July 1932 elections, eating away at the supporters of the rightwing DNVP and the fragmented smaller parties.

Kiel, in northern Schleswig-Holstein, was one of the early bastions of Nazi support (in the 1932 elections, 51% there voted for Hitler, highest in any region). Persecution of the Jews began there earlier. In 1932, public notices saying “Jews forbidden from entering” were starting to appear across the city, and in August 1932, Kiel’s synagogue and a Jewish-owned department store would be bombed.

Arthur Posner made official complaints and engaged in public debates, but he was ridiculed and the family threatened. After convincing many of his congregants to leave, mostly to the United States, the Posners also escaped in 1933, arriving in British Palestine in 1934. They brought the historic menorah with them to the future Israel.

In 1974, when a municipal museum put out an appeal for everyday objects, which illustrated the story of Jewish life, Rosi (now known as Rahel, for she switched her name into the Hebrew version, along with her husband, who became, Akiva) sent her photo to the museum.  The photo was an instant sensation, appearing in newspaper reviews, magazines and school textbooks. Yad Vashem acquired the original, but on Hanukkah, the Posners’ descendants still took it back to celebrate.

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