Judaica For Sale at the Dachau Gift Shop

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tags: Nazi, Dachau

Survivors’ memoirs lined the shelves and sat atop display tables. There were shelves dedicated solely to copies of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” in about 20 languages. There also were academic books as well as Judaica: hanukkiot, yarmulkes, mezuzas.

How could one purchase Judaica at a concentration camp? Would its use be a triumph, signaling that on acres dedicated to the extermination of the Jews and other peoples, one can buy and enjoy a physical representation of Judaism? The sale of such items seemed incongruous, even thoughtless. This was not a synagogue gift shop, this was a former death camp. Even more incongruous were greeting cards. At Dachau, where nearly 42,000 prisoners were murdered, one could purchase a birthday card.

I picked one off a standup swivel display, then quickly returned it to its slot as if it were on fire. It felt criminal to handle an object meant to denote a celebration in a hallowed place whose every stone screams death. I experienced a swirl of sadness, anger, stupefaction.

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