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Holocaust Responsa in the Kovno Ghetto

responsaThe materials contained on this page are reproduced with the permission of Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyr’s and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.

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Holocaust Responsa in the Kovno Ghetto (1941-1944)
Teaching Unit (Teacher’s Guide)

Pilot Edition

Written by Ephraim Kaye

The cover illustration is from the Alexander Bernfes collection from the Warsaw Ghetto, kept at the Yad Vashem picture archive.)


Table of Contents

Goals and Phases of the Unit – 1
Remarks for the Teacher – 3
Introduction – 5
A Brief History of the Jews of Kovno Up to 1941 – 9
Students’ Worksheet — Questions Pertaining to the Historical Context of Each Responsum – 17
Source Sheet, Question No. 1 – 18
Source Sheet, Question No. 2 – 20
Source Sheet, Question No. 3 – 22
Question No. 1: “May One Place Oneself in Possible Danger in Order to Save Someone Else from Certain Danger?” – 24
Historical Background – 26
Rabbi Oshry’s Responsum – 31
Question No. 2: “May One Save Oneself by Purchasing a Certificate of Baptism?” – 36
Historical Background – 37
Rabbi Oshry’s Responsum – 40
Question No. 3: “May One Endanger Oneself for the Sake of Religious Study and Public Worship? – 43
Historical Background – 46
Rabbi Oshry’s Responsum – 50
Summary of the Unit – 56
List of Photos – 61
Bibliography – 62