Artifact of the month for July 2013

Hanukkah Menorah  

Leo Eitinger (1912 – 1996)


Leo Eitinger was born on December 12th 1912 in the village of Lomnice in former Czechoslovakia. He became a doctor of medicine in 1937. When Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, Eitinger fled to Norway with the assistance of the Nansen-aid. In 1942 he was arrested by the Nazis, and spent the remaining years of the war in several German death camps. As one of only 34 survivors (out of 772 Norwegian-Jewish deportees) he returned to Norway in 1945, where he quickly reestablished his medical career. He became a professor in Psychiatry at the University of Oslo, and was for many years the head of the University Psychiatric Clinic in Oslo.

Hanukkah lasts for eight days in the dark months of year, from the 25th of the month of Kislev. This festival marks the miracle when the Jewish Maccabees vanquished their Hellenist oppressors and rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem. Oil supposed to last for only a single day burned for eight days. The Hanukkah menorah has eight branches plus a ninth, for the shammus or servant candle, that is placed off to the side or at a different height from the others. First the shammus is lit and then it is used to light the other candles. One candle is lit in the first day, two the second, and so on until all eight are lit on the eight day. Menorahs can be made to burn either candles or oil.

Leo Eitinger collected Hanukkah menorahs from all over the world. This particular menorah has belonged to Eitingers father (Salomon Eitinger), and was given to the museum by Ragna Følling Elgjo. It is an early 20th century piece, probably produced in Poland.