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"About the Seder"

About the Seder, Vienna Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt, newspaper article 1939
Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt, Vienna, April 4, 1939

In the initial years of Nazi rule, Jewish journalists and newspapers rapidly became a target of Nazi policies designed to limit their influence. The Nazis attacked the so-called Jewish press because they believed in the antisemitic myth that a worldwide Jewish conspiracy was distorting news reporting and spreading anti-German messages. After coming to power in 1933, the Nazis forced many Jewish journalists and editors from their posts as part of a broader campaign to remove Jews from the German civil service and positions of public trust.

Until 1938, newspapers produced for a specifically Jewish audience managed to publish with some degree of freedom. Following the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938, however, the Nazis banned all Jewish newspapers and seized their assets. Simultaneously, the Nazi Propaganda Ministry mandated the founding of a single, Nazi-controlled Jewish information sheet, Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt ("The Jewish News Journal"). Organized and tightly controlled by the SS, the new, Nazi-controlled publication was designed to communicate Nazi policies and inform Jews of the ever-expanding restrictions placed upon them.

Even under close Nazi supervision, Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt published on topics central to Jewishness and Jewish life. In a Passover supplement from 1934 published in Vienna, an anonymous author gave a brief but powerful overview of the history and practice of the Seder meal, the central moment of Passover celebration. This uplifting feature reveals how Jews managed to retain their religious and cultural identities in spite of their persecution.

Although this article's optimistic tone and its focus on Jewish culture might seem to challenge the purpose of the Nazi-controlled Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt, it did not necessarily conflict with Nazi goals at the time. In addition to celebrating Jewish religious traditions, the article seems to endorse Jewish emigration as a solution to antisemitic persecution. In a discussion of the Passover holiday, the author offers praise for a mass exodus: Jews were persecuted in the distant past and overcame that trial by fleeing the lands of their oppressors. The parallel with the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany would have been obvious to readers. This apparent promotion of Jewish emigration might have enabled the publication of the article, but its celebratory tone and the detailed description of the Seder undoubtedly infused the Jewish community with a note of optimism and hopehowever temporary or fleeting it may have been.

Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt was published in Berlin. It was supervised directly by the Propaganda Ministry, which approved all articles and print items in advance of publication. In two other former capitals of countries swallowed up by the Reich—Vienna and Prague—other Nazi agencies supervised the publication of two "local" publications along the same lines and with largely similar content. Over time, as the combined demographic consequences of emigration, deportation, and genocide shrank the numbers of German Jews in the Reich, the size and frequency of the newspaper's distribution also decreased. By mid-1943, the publication of Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt ceased. For more details on the history of the newspaper, see Clemens Maier, "The Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt, 1938-43" in Beate Meyer, Hermann Simon, and Chana Schütz, eds., Jews in Nazi Berlin: From Kristallnacht to Liberation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 10021.

For more details on the history of the newspaper, see Clemens Maier, "The Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt, 1938-43" in Beate Meyer, Hermann Simon, and Chana Schütz, eds., Jews in Nazi Berlin: From Kristallnacht to Liberation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 100-21.

The Haggadah comprises a narrative of the Jewish exodus from Egypt and is traditionally recited at the ceremonial Seder dinner. See related the items in Experiencing History Passover Haggadah from the Gurs Camp and Passover Prayer from Bergen Belsen.

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[page 1] 

ABOUT THE SEDER

From the Passover Liturgy

This and such did YOU allow me to see.
My ear heard, You let me understand.
I did not know what happened to my soul, Because YOU came and turned my fear into happiness.
Because YOU spoke a word in YOUR goodness: 
Come back, return!

[key to the illustrations]

Left and right "Reading from the Haggadah"1 and "Baking the Matzo" from the Haggadah Amsterdam 1695 • Lower Left: In a modern Matzo factory • Right: Painting by Oppenheim • Below, and the Figures in the Title: Israelites in Egypt, according to Egyptian depiction • Middle: Star of David to store Matzo in the synagogue, 1770. 

[page 2]

Passover is a unique festival and the Seder evenings, especially, make the strongest impression on all Jewish children. Something radiant and extraordinary remains in the memory, and then once again we must wait the whole year for the renewal of this illuminating impression. But what a feeling such an evening offers with the bright pictures, the great thoughts, exceptional tastes, from words and melodies, from instructions, considerations, and the great historical context! The room is lit as brightly as possible and the lights shine everywhere. The table is set festively, and under the silk embroidered cloth the Seder plate waits like a thrilling mystery. The father puts on a white robe that has the air of the last garment of all Jews, of the dress of the past and of the great Yom Kippur judgment, he puts the white silk cap on and ties the narrow white linen belt, because bound and prepared for the journey our ancestors in Egypt ate the Passover meal before they went out into the desert and into freedom. Awed and amazed, the children peer at the table.

A Haggadah lies at every place setting, with a glass behind it. For four glasses of wine must be drunk on the Seder evening by everyone, man and woman, rich and poor, young and old. And we sit reclining to the left—the father, especially, carries out the Seder by sitting reclining to the left, like a free man, since that was once a marker of free men in the Near East, and on Passover, Israel would be free.

And the mysterious Seder plate: three matzos lie on top of it, special ones that are thicker than normal and each in its own case and by rank and name distinguished Cohens, priests, elders, Levis, Levites, middle-ranking men, and the ordinary, regular Israelites. And over above, on the tablecloth, there are also other natural symbols of the celebration: a vegetable, a bitter herb to show the bitterness of the Egyptian slavery; a sweet charoset, which will taste so good to the children after the festivities and which also signifies the clay that our ancestors once used to perform hard labor to build bricks, houses, and pyramids; the roasted shankbone as a symbol of the Passover lamb and the boiled egg to signify the always round, rolling changeability of human affairs, to serve as a warning against overconfidence, and to serve as a sign of Jewish fertility, and, finally, to serve as a sign of mourning for the destroyed temple in Jerusalem.

And the wine—because with the Kiddush sanctification the Seder evening begins, as only a Jewish festival does. And how truly festive we will soon feel when we all raise the Seder plate along with the father and call out together at the same time the exclamation heard all over the world: "This is the bread of affliction, which our fathers in Egypt ate!" And we then immediately offer the grandest and most heartfelt invitation: "Whoever is hungry, come and eat! Whoever is deprived, come and take part in the Passover! This year here—next year in the land of Israel!" 

[page 3]

WE READ FROM THE HAGGADAH

[key to the illustrations] 

Left: Title page from a Haggadah from the year 1521 • Right: illuminated panel from a Haggadah from the year 1521 and "Kiddush" from the Haggadah of Mantua (1560) • Above: Seder plate from 1776 with the inscription: "The more one tells of the exodus from Egypt, the more laudable." • Superimposed [on  the seder plate]: the four typical figures from the Haggadah:  "the Immature one, the Simpleton, the Wicked one and the Wise one." • Bottom center: The Wise man from Bne Berak, depiction in the Haggadah • Bottom left and right: Figures from the Haggadah from Mantua 1560.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt, Vienna, April 4, 1939
Date Created
April 4, 1939
Page(s) 3
Publisher
Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt
Language(s)
German
Location
Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Germany (historical)
Document Type Newspaper Article
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