the commander of the Eastern Front was General Paul von Hindenburg
This story sounds like a Hassidic wonder tale, but it is completely true. The beginning of the story took place during World War I. The German army stormed the defense lines of the Russians on the eastern front and was forced back. The Russians had superior forces and a well-built system of fortifications.
The outcome of the battle was determined thanks to vital information provided to the Germans. This included diagrams of the tunnels leading to the Russian barricades. It was supplied to the Germans by Rabbi Abraham Kupferstock of Warsaw.
Students Hanged in the Town Square
How did a Jewish Rabbi obtain the plans of the Russian tunnels to the fortifications? This remains an unsolved mystery even now. What is known is that Rabbi Kupferstock was the head of a Yeshiva [Rabbinical Academy] in Warsaw during the period of Russian rule over Poland. The Russians forcibly inducted young Poles and Jews into their army, and all who deserted were put to death. Among these were three of the Rabbi’s students. They were brought to the town square and hanged by Russian officers, in public view of a large crowd of anti-Semitic Poles. The rabbi witnessed the execution and was determined to avenge the murder of his students. He accomplished this when he revealed the secrets of the tunnels leading to the fortifications.
The Rabbi Moves to Berlin
At the war’s end the Rabbi moved to Germany and set up a Yeshiva at Muenzstrasse 35 in Central Berlin. The Rabbi was granted a government pension for life and the authorities subsidized the Yeshiva. The rabbi was also granted a special status and served as the official Jewish representative at special occasions of the Weimar Republic, such as the birthday of President Hindenburg. As to the reasons for the special privileges and status granted to the Rabbi nothing was officially published. Perhaps this is related to the fact that the commander of the Eastern Front during the war was ,none other than, General Paul von Hindenburg who later became the President of Germany.
Up to this point the story still sounds like a reasonable historical report. After all, there were many Jewish soldiers who fought in the ranks of the German army, were decorated for bravery and received medals for excellence. These, however, did not help them after Hitler’s rise to power (1933). Most were deported or died in concentration camps and the gas-chambers.
A Yeshiva under Nazi Patronage
The lot of Rabbi Kupferstock was different. During the years in which all the institutions and synagogues of Germany were burned down, the Yeshiva on Muenzstrasse 35 continued to exist. The Nazi regime continued to finance the Yeshiva as had the previous government, and German soldiers were stationed around the Yeshiva and prevented any harm being done.
This special status continued under the protection of the Nazi regime for eight years. On 22 Adar I 5700 (March 2, 1940) Rabbi Kupferstock died a natural death. He was buried in the Weissensee Cemetery and the tombstone erected on his grave still stands today. The Yeshiva, however, was closed and the students were sent to concentration camps with no information known about their subsequent fate.
This amazing story was sent me by someone via the internet. At first sight it seemed to me a fabrication, and I began the attempt to trace the source and its credibility.
No Record at Yad Vashem
In turning to Yad Vashem [Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Authority] no record was found concerning Rabbi Kupferstock. A record does exist for a woman named Chana Kupferstock, born in Warsaw and deported from Berlin to Theresienstadt in 1943. The date of deportation and the fact that she was transferred to Theresienstadt, a camp for the privileged, indicates, perhaps, that she was the wife of Rabbi Kupferstock. This is, of course, weak evidence.
My research revealed that the source of the story that had been sent me was the “Aish HaTorah” website. This organization has its headquarters in a building facing the Western Wall. From this website I was referred to the source from which the article was copied and translated, and its author, Professor Me’ir Schwartz. Now the riddle was solved.
Professor Schwartz is the head of the “Beit Ashkenaz” Association whose purpose is to locate and commemorate the 2200 synagogues that had existed in Germany in the previous century. On Kristallnacht [the Night of Broken Glass (9-10 of November 1938] 1574 synagogues were put to the torch. Most of the rest were destroyed during the war. Some 150 synagogues survived unrazed.
Professor Schwartz told me about the Rabbi Kupferstock affair: “During the process of documentation of the destroyed synagogues we came upon Rabbi Kupferstock’s synagogue. We began to research the history of the place and thus we found the documents from which the entire story unfolded. We then also discovered that a German journalist had preceded us and published the matter as a curio in a minor German publication named “Aktuell”. I wrote an article on the subject in our organizational bulletin which is distributed to several hundred people interested in the history of German Jewry. The article was copied, translated and placed on the “Aish HaTorah” website. As a result of this a number of fresh testimonies were received. Among them from a man living in Australia whose grandfather was Rabbi Kupferstock’s brother.
Arrived as a Child
\Professor Schwartz, , was born in Nuernberg, Germany to an Orthodox family and came to Israel by himself one month before the outbreak of World War II, when he was eleven years old. He was educated at a boarding school in Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, enlisted in the Haganah, and was its emissary in Europe. He was an officer on the Exodus and accompanied some of the [illegal] immigrants that were deported by the British back to Germany. He studied biology at Bar Ilan and the Hebrew Universities and specialized in hydroponic agriculture.
Seventeen years ago he founded the “Beit Ashkenaz” Association together with Dr. Yosef Burg. The association was unable to obtain financial support from Jewish sources. In “Yad Vashem” they were told that the “Kristallnacht occurred before the Holocaust”. (They don’t [seem to] consider the fact that on Kristallnacht 1300 Jews were killed). The Claims Conference of the World Jewish Congress which received large sums of money from Germany as reparations for Jewish public property and heirless assets, also refrained from supporting the association. Having no other choice they turned to Germany and convinced them that their work documents history which is also German history. The documentation is carried out by German students and published in book form.
[Translated from the Hebrew by Joseph Schachter Feb. 27, 2009 . Items in brackets added for comprehension]