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Survivors’ Talmud

March 22, 2012

Tzvee reprints an Erica Brown article in the Algemeiner comparing the demise of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (which Brown misspells as “Encyclopedia Britannica”) with the survival of the Talmud.  The article is not very good, and includes all sorts of errors (e.g., “In 2010, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who translated the Talmud from Aramaic to English, added punctuation and divisions and commentary completed his entire 45-year project.” [emphasis added])

However, the article does contain reference to what was certainly one of the most remarkable Talmud printings ever:  the Survivors’ Talmud.  The Survivors’ Talmud was an official US Army publication on the behalf of Jewish displaced persons after World War II.  (The Nazi destruction was so great that it is believed that no complete Talmud set survived in Central Europe after the war; and they were even scarce in the US, which traditionally relied on Polish-printed Talmud sets.)

The following dedication appears in English in tractate Berachos:

In 1946 we turned to the American Army Commander to assist us in the publication of the Talmud. In all the years of exile it has often happened that various governments and forces have burned Jewish books. Never did any publish them for us. This is the first time in Jewish history that a government has helped in the publication of the Talmud, which is the source of our being and the length of our days. The Army of the United States saved us from death, protects us in this land, and through their aid does the Talmud appear again in Germany.

This edition of the Talmud is dedicated to the United States Army. The army played a major role in the rescue of the Jewish people from total annihilation and after the defeat of Hitler bore the major burden of sustaining the DPs of the Jewish faith. This special edition of the Talmud published in the very land where, but a short time ago, everything Jewish and of Jewish inspiration was anathema, will remain a symbol of the indestructibility of the Torah. The Jewish DPs will never forget the generous impulses and the unprecedented humanitarianism of the American forces, to whom they owe so much.

You can read about the history of the Survivors’ Talmud here.

The title pages of the Survivors’ Talmud are remarkable.  Here is the title page from tractate Berachos.  Note the dramatic change from the barbed-wire death camp scenes at the bottom to palm trees and images of Jerusalem:

talmud

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