Rabbi Schacter at Buchenwald: We’ve been thinking all day about the front-page obituary in today’s New York Times.
Margalit Fox recalls the life of Rabbi Herschel Schacter, who died last week at 95. Rabbi Schacter led a long, distinguished, productive life.
Fox begins her report in 1945, when Schacter entered Buchenwald, the first Jewish chaplain to enter the camp on the day of its liberation:
FOX (3/27/13): In Buchenwald that April day, Rabbi Schacter said afterward, it seemed as though there was no one left alive. In the camp, he encountered a young American lieutenant who knew his way around.“He was joined by those Jews who could walk.” We thought of Anne Frank and Margot Frank, who died in Bergen-Belsen just a few weeks before. Like so many others, they had died from typhus and starvation, unable to hang on until liberation.
“Are there any Jews alive here?” the rabbi asked him.
He was led to the Kleine Lager, or Little Camp, a smaller camp within the larger one. There, in filthy barracks, men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi, in his unfamiliar military uniform, with unmistakable fright.
“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” Rabbi Schacter cried in Yiddish, “ihr zint frei!”—“Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!” He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. He was joined by those Jews who could walk, until a stream of people swelled behind him.
The report includes a remarkable photo of a remarkable prayer service. We’ll recommend every word.