Rav Schnitzler’s Chanukah
This story was told to me by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, and I would like to share it with you all. This story follows a certain rabbi, Rav Shraga Shmuel Schnitzler. He was a Chassidishe person who was sent to Bergen-Belsen. During his time in Bergen-Belsen, Rav Schnitzler would tell the people in the barracks, “We will be able to light the candles for Chanukah.” All the people felt that he was crazy and that there was no possible way that they will be able to light the Chanukah candles. However, Rav Schnitzler still strongly felt that they would succeed.
In the concentration camps, each person had an assigned job. Now, Rav Schnitzler’s job was a very difficult one. In the camps, the Nazis would squeeze in a couple hundred Jews into a room designed to fit thirty or forty. The Nazis would tell the Jews that they would be getting a nice shower, and will then head on out to work. However, the shower never came and they were gassed and all were killed. The bodies of these dead people would then be piled into a cart and taken to the crematorium. This was the job of Rav Schnitzler. He would have to push this cart of bodies a half a mile to the crematorium and was not allowed to let any bodies fall off. This was a very difficult job because Rav Schnitzler knew many of the people from the barracks or from home. However, he would still walk the same path every day pushing this cart to have these bodies turned into ashes.
One day, on the 20th day of Kislev, Rav Schnitzler was pushing his cart along the path like usual and he stumbled and tripped on a lump of earth. Rav Schnitzler has walked this path every day, and he knew that this bump was not there the day before and that someone must have hidden something there. Despite his curiosity, Rav Schnitzler did not check because he noticed the Nazi soldiers walking around. So, later that day, Rav Schnitzler went back to check what caused this mysterious bump. Inside it, he found a small cup of oil, small strands of wool, and a few little cups. Realizing that someone must have buried it there and was planning to use it, Rav Schnitzler decided to leave it be and figure out who it belonged to. He then went back to the barracks to see if anyone knew anything about this mysterious treasure. Everyone that he asked just thought that he was dreaming.
Rav Schnitzler went back every day, from the 21st of Kislev until an hour before Chanuka started, just to see if someone claimed the oil and the wicks. Realizing that no one was going to use them, Rav Schnitzler took the oil and the wicks and brought them to the barracks. He told the people in the barracks, “I will light the candles for all of us”. The people in the barracks hugged and cried for joy as they recited the three Brachot together. They then lit the candles every single night of Chanukah. This was December of 1944. In April of 1945, those who survived were liberated and were free to go where they pleased. Rav Shraga Schnitzler decided that he would go back to Hungary where he became the Rav in the city of Chabber. Many people came to him for Brachot and he eventually moved to Israel.
In 1951, Rav Schnitzler decided to go to Brooklyn to visit the Satmar Rebbe, another survivor of Bergen-Belsen. They discussed and cried about their experiences in the camp. During this time, the Satmar Rebbe said to Rav Schnitzler, “There was one thing that I have always felt bad about. Right before the Chanukah of 1944 in Bergen-Belsen, I bribed a Nazi to let me hide a small amount of oil, some wicks, and some little cups. However, I was never able to use them because I was liberated that year on the 21st of Kislev and it has upset me that they went unused.” At this, Rav Schnitzler replied joyously to the Rebbe, “Rebbe, you wanted to do something great and a real Mitzvah. Because of this, Hashem let me find this oil. Because you hid it, I was able to find it and many Jews were inspired and cried and hugged each other. Because you wanted to do this Mitzvah so badly, Hashem gave you the S’char through us.” The Satmar Rebbe was overjoyed and exclaimed that “even in our time, Hashem made a miracle with oil in the month of Kislev.”
We can learn from here that when you want to do something good, Hashem will help you. You may not see the immediate results, but you will still get the S’char. May all of you have a very happy Chanukah filled with joy and Mitzvot.