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Passover in Germany, 1940

JAntonAlexander“Last year’s matzo may be used, as long as it is free of mites.”

“If food is scarce, legumes (if they are available), such as peas, beans, and lentils, may be used this year.  After thorough inspection, they should be put in boiling water and cooked.  Sick people and children may have rice,  which must be cooked in separate pots, which should later be used for hametz.

These out of the ordinary instructions appeared in a pamphlet for Pesach issued in Germany in 1940. The rabbis who authorized these special conditions for observing the holiday, emphasized that these exceptions were extraordinary, and applicable only for 1940.

J. Anton Alexander, a wholesale grocer in Berlin, circulated this concise document, together with rationing rules and price lists, to potential customers.  These stark typewritten pages illustrate the Jewish situation under Nazi rule in Germany, after the outbreak of World War II.

An excerpt from the document (held in the Yeshiva University Archives) follows:

Instructions for Pesach 5700 / 1940

Since this year it is impossible to manufacture Pesach products under special supervision, it is the duty of every individual before Pesach to carefully check all goods to be used on Pesach, especially those which do not come in sealed packages, for traces of flour and the like, since when they are weighed or scooped, traces of forbidden items may enter.


This pamphlet includes only the special provisions for this year. The dinim of Pesach apply, unchanged as always, in all respects for future years. Only Yom Tov tableware should be used. The leniencies mentioned above do not apply to the Yom Tov tableware.

All the leniencies are justifiable and recommended only because of the current difficult circumstances, and are not valid at other times. But precisely because we can no longer, as in earlier times, carry out the minhagim exactingly and scrupulously, our duty is doubled, to observe everything we possibly can conscientiously, with strictness and love, so the dignity and seriousness of the Pesach laws will not be diminished.

Oberrabiner Dr. Carlebach, Hamburg; Rabbiner Dr. Singermann, Berlin; Rabbiner Grünberg, Berlin; Rabbiner Dr. Neuhaus, Frankfurt/M., Rabbiner Dr. Stein, Köln

Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger