The first night of Chanukah falls on Christmas Eve this year, which hasn’t happened in almost 40 years. In the spirit of remembrance, it seems appropriate to trace the roots of this famous photograph which was taken in December 1931 in Kiel, Germany.
The first online mention seems to be from 2010 when Chabad-Lubavitch provided details about the photo.
It was the eighth night of Chanukah in Kiel, Germany, a small town with a Jewish population of 500. That year, 1931, the last night Chanukah fell on Friday evening, and Rabbi Akiva Boruch Posner, spiritual leader of the town, was hurrying to light the Menorah before the Shabbat set in.
Directly across the Posner’s home stood the Nazi headquarters in Kiel, displaying the dreaded Nazi Party flag in the cold December night. With the eight lights of the Menorah glowing brightly in her window, Rabbi Posner’s wife, Rachel, snapped a photo of the Menorah and captured the Nazi building and flag in the background. She wrote a few lines in German on the back of the photo.
“Chanukah, 5692. ‘Judea dies’, thus says the banner. ‘Judea will live forever’, thus respond the lights.”
The photo was taken just over a year before the Nazi party came to power and Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany.
Rachel’s grandson Yehudah Mansbuch told Chabad-Lubavitch that his grandparents immigrated to Israel in 1933. Their activism saved the small community; only eight perished during the Holocaust.
The Chanukah (Hanukkah) menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the eight-day holiday, the Jewish festival of rededication, that is also known as the festival of lights. Candles are lit each night from the center one (the shammus or servant) which sits at a different height. Each night, another candle is added from right to left. On the eighth night, all nine candles are lit.
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Photo source: Rare Historical Photos