Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rabbi Isaak (Julius) Samuel - courtesy Ester Samuel-Cahn


Rabbi of Norwegian Jewry 1930-1942 

Rabbi Isaak (Julius) Samuel was the Rabbi of the Norwegian Jewry. He was arrested by the Nazis in Norway, was imprisoned in Grini, 
and sent to Auschwitz, where he perished. 

Here are the details of his life as told by his two children, 
Ester Samuel-Cahn 
and Amos Samuel:

"Our father was born in the small town of Freudenburg, on December 19th 1902, son of Samuel Samuel and of Yocheved (Ida), nee Weil. During World War I and after, 1915-1922, he studied in Trier, at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gymnasium. A philanthropist, friend of the family, sponsored his studies. 

After successfully completing the Matriculation Exams, he chose to devote his time to the study of Torah. He studied in several Yeshivoth, among them the Yeshiva ‘Torath Moshe’ in Frankfurt am Main, where he studied during 1925. In the summer of the same year he moved to Berlin, where he started his studies as a regular student at the Hildesheimer Rabbinerseminar, from which he was ordained as a Rabbi. His Certificate of Ordinance, from the summer of 1929, is signed by Rabbi Joseph Wolgemuth and Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, and is intact, with us.

In parallel to his studies in the seminary, our father attended courses in Philosophy and Psychology at the von Humboldt University in Berlin. He joined the ‘Misrachi’ movement, and its faction ‘Ze’irei Mizrachi’ and was elected a delegate to the Zionist Congresses in Basel, in 1927, and in Zurich, in 1929.

In the year of 1928 the ‘Weltverband Schomre Schabbos’ (World-organization for the observance of Sabbath) was established, due to the initiative of Rabbi Dr. Schmuel Grunberg. Its aim was to further the Sabbath-observance in the Jewish world, and to counteract the discrimination of Sabbath-observing Jews. 

Trough the influence of Rabbi Grunberg, who was one of our father’s teachers in the Seminary, our father accepted the task of Secretary of this movement. Under this capacity he was involved with the organizing of the World Congress of the Sabbath Observers, which was held in Berlin in the summer of 1930. The success of this congress was, to a great extent, attributed to our father.

During his stay in Berlin our father published several articles in the journal ‘Zion’, published by the Misrachi in Berlin, and in Judischer Rundschau. Some of his articles were published using the pseudonym ‘Ben Yocheved’, (son of Yocheved, his mother’s name). Recently we found, in the National Library in Jerusalem, a booklet which our father published in 1928, entitled ‘Die Judische Seele und die Aesthetik’ (The Jewish soul and the Aesthetic). 

In 1930 he published a detailed article about the Sabbath, in a collection ‘Hygiene und Judentum’ (Hygiene and Judaism), which was published in relation to an exhibition about hygiene which took place in Dresden.

In due course our father met our mother, may she rest in peace. Our mother, Henriette-Jetty, was born in Berlin on October 25th, 1907, to Leah (nee Wechsler) and Nathan Pollak. Her grandfather was Rabbi Pinchas Elchanan Wechsler, also known as Rabbi Hile Wechsler, from Schwabach. 

During the second half of the nineteenth century anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic publications were in abundance. This, and several dreams he had regarding massive anti-Semitic acts in Europe, led Rabbi Hilel Wechsler to publish, in December of 1879, a booklet entitled ‘Ein Wort der Manung an Israel’ (A word of warning to the Jews), wherein he called upon the Jews in Europe to leave their countries of residence and move to Eretz Israel (then Palestine), before the onset of a terrible storm which might destroy them... 

Our father and mother got married in Berlin on November 9th, 1930. Already at the end of his studies at the Rabbinical Seminary our father was offered a position as a Rabbi in Oslo, the capitol of Norway, and soon after their wedding our parents settled in Oslo, where our father started his rabbinical duties. In Oslo our older brother Elchanan, in blessed memory, was born. (He passed away August 22nd, 1984), Also we, Ester and Amos, were born there. 

Until the year 1851 Jews were prohibited from living in Norway. That year, as a result of the efforts of the Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland, and six years after he passed away, the prohibition was abolished by the Norwegian parliament. Slowly Jews started to settle in Norway. 

When our parents came to Norway there were mainly two places where Jews were concentrated: Oslo and Trondheim. In Oslo there were two communities, the oldest was officially established in 1892. The community in Trondheim was established in 1905. Other Jews were scattered in small towns with no organized Jewish life. 

In Oslo there were two synagogues, which were conducted as strictly orthodox synagogues, though only few of their respective congregants were strictly observant of the Jewish laws.

During his years in office, our father tried to bring the Jewish community closer to Judaism in daily life. Often Halachic questions (questions about conduct according to Jewish laws) about matters of community life arose. In more complicated problems our father consulted his former Rabbi and Teacher, Rabbi Jacob Yechiel Weinberg, may he rest in peace. Some of Rabbi Weinberg’s answers are included in the book ‘Serideh Esh’ (‘The Remnants of the Fire’). 

A few years ago some of the original letters of our father to Rabbi Weinberg were found, in an archive where letters sent to Rabbi Weinberg were kept. From the letters of our father, one can get an authentic picture of Jewish life in Norway in the period prior to the Holocaust.

Shortly after his arrival to Norway, our father gained full knowledge of the Norwegian language. His sermons and lectures on Judaism and other subjects were given in Norwegian, and he also lectured on various topics to the Norwegian public in general.

Our father continued his literary work in Oslo. He published booklets on Jewish topics for use in the ‘Cheder’ (a school for children, on Jewish subjects) which was active in the localities of the Synagogue in the afternoons. 

He also published articles in ‘Hatikwoh’, the monthly journal of the Jewish community, and in general Norwegian outlets. He translated from Norwegian into German Henrik Wergeland’s poems ‘The Jew’ and ‘The Jewess’. (Der Jude und die Judin, Oslo, 1935.) 

Our father saw in Wergeland an antithesis to the Nazi anti-Semitism which spread in Germany, especially after 1933, when the Nazis took over power. In his foreword to the book, he writes that he hopes this book will be of comfort and consolation to all those who suffer because of their faith or national belonging.

Our father was very helpful and supportive of the Zionist organizations and the ‘Keren Kajemet’ which were active in Norway, and our mother, may she rest in peace, was the founder of the Norwegian chapter of the women organization ‘Wizo’. From many handwritten letters, which can be found in the Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, one can get a picture of our parent’s contribution to the Zionist activities in Norway.

During December 1934 – January 1935 our parents went on a few weeks trip to Eretz Israel (Palestine). Our father kept a diary of the trip, which he published in Norwegian, in ‘Hatikwoh’. 

On their trip, our parents went to Jerusalem and also visited the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Abraham Isaak Kook, a few months before he passed away. Their base in Eretz Israel was in Haifa, in the house of our grandparents Pollak, who immigrated to Eretz Israel already in 1933, immediately after the Nazis came to power in Germany

Our grandparents urged our parents to also settle in Israel, but our father said he had commitments towards his congregation, and therefore, though aware of the situation in Europe, must return to his duties in Oslo.

During the night between the 8th and 9th of April, 1940, half a year after the outset of WWII, the Germans invaded Norway. The Germans were met with considerable resistance, but nevertheless Norway finally capitulated on June 9th.

The Nazi ideology did not take roots among the Norwegians. The Nazis, had, however, a Norwegian cooperator, namely Vidkun Quisling, who was the head of a small fascist political party, founded in 1933. 

During part of the German occupation of Norway, Quisling became Prime Minister, under the auspice of the Germans. After the war Quisling was sentenced to death, and the name ‘Quisling’ became a synonym for ‘traitor’.

Approximately a year before the war, our father managed, with the help of leading Norwegians, with whom he was in close contact, to rescue his brother Ferdinand from Germany, together with the brother’s wife Martha and their two children, Hannelore and Gunther, and to bring them to Norway.

The fate of the Norwegian Jewry, and also what befell us, can be seen from the testimony of our mother, may she rest in peace, in the Eichman Trial. The trial of Eichman, who was the architect of ‘the final solution’ and one of its main executors, commenced in Jerusalem on the tenth of April 1961. The Chief Judge was Moshe Landau. 

Mother testified on May 11th 1961. She was questioned by attorney Gabriel Bach. She preferred to answer in the German language, and her testimony was simultaneously translated into Hebrew."

See also full video interview about Ester Samuel-Cahn's father's life.

With permission from authors. 
With gratitude