Belzer “Violinist’s” Victory Over Hitler by David Damen

Belzer “Violinist’s” Victory Over Hitler by David Damen

Reprinted with permission from Mishpacha Magazine
To the Belzer Chassidim, the recent marriage of the Rebbe’s first grandson was a source of immense joy and gratitude– but also signified something much deeper: the flourishing of a Chassidus nearly wiped out. The Belzer Rebbe was a nine-year-old orphan when all eyes fixed on him to continue the majesty of Belz; with his marriage to the daughter of the previous Vizhnitzer Rebbe in 1965, the birth after many years of his only son Aharon Mordechai, and now the wedding of his first grandson, Shalom, the joy of the chassidim is unbounded–knowing there is a force that will propel them onward.

For elder Chassid Eliezer (“Reb Leizer”) Ostreicher, that joy paralleled his own life’s journey, and came full circle at the forshpiel (a Saturday night celebration at the end of the rebbishe chassan’s aufruf) preceding the historic wedding.

In Belz there is a tradition called “shtimme muzik” (literally “mute” music)– a pantomime orchestra that plays in front of the crowd, when the real music is being piped in or made by professionals in the background. In the shtetl, the real musicians were often gentiles, and so the chassidim would stand on stage pretending to play their instruments while the actual music was coming from behind. During the forshpiel, Reb Leizer– seated at the VIP table– picked up a look-alike violin made of cardboard and, joined by a “drummer,” a “saxophonist,” and other “band” members, “played” his heart out.

Then, as the music rose and the “band” plucked and strummed in tune with the soaring rhythm, Reb Leizer pushed up his sleeve and raised his arm, letting thousands witness true triumph: the Auschwitz inmate number indelibly etched into his skin.

“I looked out and saw the massive crowd dancing and singing with such unbounded joy,” Reb Ostreicher–who lives in Boro Park–later related, sitting his son’s living room in Jerusalem. “I looked out at the Rebbe, his face aglow, and I thought, Here you are, Leizer Ostreicher, the ragged boy standing in front of Dr. Mengele yemach shmo as he’s pointing you to the right and your mother to the left. Hitler! This is my sweet revenge. Go look on the bleachers and you’ll see my sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons, all together with a Chassidus you tried to destroy! And nearly 70 years later, I brandished my number as my flag of victory.”…

“Looking out at the crowd, I knew it was a victory for me, a victory for Belz, and a victory for the entire Jewish people.”

Photo by Anshil Bek

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2 comments

  1. a chusid

    What a Kiddush Hashem…

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