Israeli Court Blocks Auction of Letter Written by Young Girl Killed in the Holocaust

The seller, a member of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum council, refused to hand the letter over to the family of the slain girl or to give it to the Yad Vashem archive

Rachel Mintz, an 11-year-old girl from the town of Zarki in Poland who was killed in the Holocaust.
Courtesy of the family

The Tel Aviv District Court blocked the sale of a letter, written by a young girl who was killed in the Holocaust, that was supposed to be sold at auction on Tuesday night. The seller, ultra-Orthodox businessman Dudi Zilbershlag, a member of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum council, refused to hand the letter over to the family of the slain girl or to give it to the Yad Vashem archive.

The auction of the letter and four others, all written by Jewish children from Poland to children in Palestine before the outbreak of World War II, was slated for Tuesday evening.  

The sale of the four other letters was blocked Tuesday night following an appeal by the Zaglembie World Organization, a memorial group for the Jewish communities in the region of Poland from which the children hailed. 

Businessman Dudi Zilbershlag, who says he purchased the letters at the Jaffa Flea Market, at the Mikve Yisrael school in Holon, October 4, 2014.
Tomer Appelbaum

"There will be no damage caused if the sale of these letters is postponed until we know all the facts," Judge Rachel Arkovi wrote in her decision.   

As per the court's decision, Zilbershlag, who says he bought the letters at the Jaffa Flea Market, will negotiate with the family in an attempt to sell the letter or find another solution. Zilbershlag and the family will meet in court next week and, in the event that they cannot arrive at a compromise, will have a legal discussion on the matter.      

The letter was written in 1937 by Rachel Mintz, an 11-year-old girl from the town of Zarki in Poland, who was a student at the Tarbut School. Her neice, Mevasseret Zion resident Adva Lotan, was trying to block the sale of the letter, which recounted the anti-Semitism her aunt experienced prior to the Holocaust

“You must have heard about events in Poland, that bad people are beating Jews and there is no one to help us. All the Jews in Poland want to come quickly to Eretz Israel,” Mintz wrote.

The letter survived, but Rachel was later murdered. “She wrote beautifully, with beautiful penmanship in perfect Hebrew, which is so suited to the home in which she grew up. When I read the letter I got the chills, as if I could really hear the girl who wrote the letter in 1937, two years before it was all over,” Lotan wrote on Facebook.

The letters sent by by Rachel Mintz, an 11-year-old girl from the town of Zarki in Poland, in 1937.
Dynasty auction house

“We are trying to stop the auction of the letter, so it doesn’t fall into private hands. We want to preserve and respect the memory of my aunt. The place of this letter is in an archive like Yad Vashem or The Beit Hatfutsot Museum.”

The other letters intended for auction also reveal the rising anti-Semitism in Poland, and almost all of them mention harassment of Jews by non-Jews and the fear of what was to come, the auction house, Dynasty, wrote.

Another student, Henya Yechston, wrote: “In school we hear only Hebrew but when we go outside the goyim beat us and throw stones at us…you see even small children suffering  but the big ones much more. I would very much like to go to Eretz Israel. I could respond to the attackers, not like here where I am afraid.”

A student by the name of Moshe Fruman wrote: “The situation of the Jews in Poland is bad, the Endecja (members of the National Democratic Party) want the Jewish students to sit on the left side of the university but the Jews don’t agree. I end the letter now. Shalom to you. Moshe Fruman.”