The Israeli writer S.Y. Agnon made aliyah (immigrated to the Holy Land) twice in his life — first to then-Ottoman-ruled Palestine in 1908, and again to British-mandate Palestine in 1929. But his works were beloved by Jews in both Israel and the Diaspora. One of these books, In the Heart of the Seas, was written in 1933 and is about making aliyah, something many Jews at the time were preparing to do as Hitler's regime began to threaten those who practiced Judaism. This is the story, told in The Times of Israel by Ro Oranim, about how a copy of this book about aliyah not only survived the horrific events of Kristallnacht, but ended up in the Holy Land, itself:
November 9, 1938. Kristallnacht. The night of broken glass, hearts, brick and mortar. In just two days, over 7,000 businesses, so carefully grown and cultivated were trashed, looted, and burned to the ground along with 250 beloved synagogues.
On that fateful night, Felix Pinczower, a resident of Berlin at the time, found himself on the streets in heart of the violence. He was pushed into a large crowd and witnessed the violent mob looting a Jewish book store. The vandals had shattered the store windows and were systematically throwing the books out into the street for the pages to be torn out and stomped on before being discarded into a large trash heap.
“In the Heart of the Seas,” a book by the famed author, S. Y. Agnon, that tells the story of a group of Hasidim on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was among the books being thrown through the window into the streets — only this book was spared the fate faced by the thousands of books destroyed that night. That little book with its simple white cover was saved by Felix Pinczower on that night of violence that shattered the Jewish community of Germany.
As the mob around the book store was broken up, Pinczower was arrested along with thousands of others who were rounded up on Kristallnacht and was taken to a concentration camp where he stayed for six weeks. He was released from the camp once his official request to leave Germany was approved.
On May 8, 1939, Pinczower sent the rescued book along with a descriptive letter of the violence he had experienced to the famed author after immigrating to the Land of Israel and establishing his new home in Tel Aviv.
In his heartfelt letter, Pinczower described how, upon witnessing the scene at the Jewish bookstore, he had become consumed with rage. Just as he was about to take action, something that could have cost him his life, a gust of wind picked up and a small, simple book landed at his feet...