For the Government

28 09 2011

The following, from On The Main Line:

Someone once asked me if I had any information about what happened in Nazi Germany when it came to the traditional prayer for the government.

I saw an interesting statement in an article by Arno Herzberg in the 1991 Leo Baeck Institue Yearbook, called “The Jewish Press under the Nazi Regime Its Mission, Suppression and Defiance – A Memoir”

He writes that the Jewish press in those days, while it still existed, would print quotations from Tanach that could, in a veiled way, give expression to the emotions they were feeling. However, they could not be open. So, for example, they obviously could not quote Psalm 140.

But, writes Herzberg, they could make more subtle points. Then he writes:

“One prayer that caused problems was the prayer for the welfare of the government. It was an integral part of the prayerbook, but it had lost its meaning. It would have been more than hypocrisy to pray for the most vicious enemy the Jewish people had ever had. We could safely leave this to the churches. On the other hand, to omit it completely might be interpreted as disrespect and as an expression of displeasure with the government. It was impossible to discuss this in any forum, or in any newspaper column. But it attests to the common sense of Jewish leaders that this prayer was gradually abandoned²⁵ without comment. In the end, the Gestapo relieved hesitant souls of their objections. The prayer was prohibited.”

The footnote directs us to “an adaptation of the Jewish prayer for the beloved fatherland,” and refers to “Juedischer Widerstand in Deutschland” pg. 6, which luckily is available online (link).

There, the author writes that when the Nazis came to power many Jews began turning to the synagogue, who previously had not gone very often, or at all. He gives a prayer he remembers: “Herr der Welt, Vater aller Menschen. Wir bitten Dich um Deinen Schutz fuer alle die Laender, in denen Juden frei und ungestort ihrer Arbeit nachgehen koennen,” which means

“Lord of the World,
Father of all Men.
We pray you protect all lands in which Jews are free and undisturbed,
and able to pursue their work.”

If you are not a regular reader of On The Main Line, you really should be.

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