What a Bergen-Belsen prenup teaches us about resilience

Please click here for a link to my recent article on a document I came across in the archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. I’m really grateful to Laura Adkins, Opinion Editor, for shaping the piece. Also thanks to the incredibly helpful staff of YIVO for permission to reproduce documents from their collections.

8 thoughts on “What a Bergen-Belsen prenup teaches us about resilience

  1. Henry Abramson very interesting! I also read your accompanying article. However, I do not quite understand what it is about. There also two stories interwoven in your article, i.e. the so called “biological revenge”/”moshiachskinder” and the prenuptial agreement.
    How was this possible “By 1948, according to Grossman, the displaced persons camps (of which Bergen-Belsen was the largest) witnessed a birth rate of 36 children per 1,000 Jewish women”?
    Mr. Abramson could you please try to summarize in a few words what this prenuptial agreement was about? Does it mean something like a survivor would remarry but would honor a previous marriage if the spouse was believed to be dead, but had actually survived as well?

  2. Unfortunately, the referenced article by Anita Grossman (Victims, Villains, and Survivors: Gendered Perceptions and Self-Perceptions of Jewish Displaced Persons in Occupied Postwar Germany
    )is behind a paywall

  3. Thank you for this post Henry – hope you don’t mind but I forwarded it to my cousin who is one of the miracle babies you describe – she was born in Bergen-Belson

  4. Dr. Abramson:

    in re: Bergen Belsen:

    I greatly appreciated this article and the revelation about aguna practice in the death camp.

    One point: Your translation of the prenup says: “the Bet Din may nullify my [subsequent] marriage”. I believe it should say “the Bet Din may forbid my [subsequent] marriage”.

    Kol tuv

      1. A woman is an aguna when her husband disappears [usually in wartime] and is precluded from remarrying until the issue is resolved.

        Similarly, a man whose wife has disappeared is also precluded from remarrying. Unlike the woman, a Rabbinic court may permit the man to remarry subject to certain conditions. What Dr. Abramson has discovered seems to be that the Rabbis in Bergen Belsen made this dispensation subject to the conditions spelled out in the prenup.

  5. Dear Mr. Greenspoon, thank you so much for your explanation about aguna. Interesting that the aguna seems to apply to both genders in a quite similar fashion. I suppose this is a very old tradition or custom?

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