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French town unveils hidden Jewish treasures

(JTA) — A town near Strasbourg unveiled dozens of Judaica items hidden before the Holocaust and discovered during the renovation of a former synagogue.

The recently discovered items were presented to the public on Sunday. They had been hidden at what is now the new cultural center of Dambach-la-Ville, a town of 2,000 in eastern France, the L’Alsace daily reported Saturday.

Members of the town’s former Jewish community hid the cache of thousands of items — including old Torah scrolls and texts from the 16th century — in the space of a double ceiling designed especially for concealment, according to the report.

Among the findings are 250 mapot, or wimpels — strips of cloth that were wrapped around Jewish babies during their circumcision and then decorated with their names and deposited for safekeeping. The oldest mappah found at Dambach was dated to 1614. The oldest item found at the former synagogue was a ruined Torah scroll dating back to 1592.

Jean-Camille Bloch, the vice president of the SHIAL historical society on Jewish presence in the Alsace-Lorraine region, was quoted by L’Alsace as saying some of the items recovered are worth hundreds of dollars.

The French government evacuated tens of thousands of Frenchmen from the Alsace-Lorraine region, including 14,000 Jews, when World War II broke out in 1939, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Due to the evacuation, only about 10 percent of the Alsace-Lorraine Jewish population of 20,000 perished in the Holocaust.

 

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