Judgment at Nuremberg: A Purim to Remember

On October 16, 1946, ten of the highest-ranking Nazi officers of Hitler’s Germany were put to death. Three more were given life sentences (Rudolf Hess, the last surviving relic of the trials, died in Spandau Prison in 1987 at the age of 93), four were imprisoned for up to twenty years, and three were acquitted.
After 216 court sessions the International Military Tribunal, convened specially for this purpose, disbanded itself and later in that day the ashes of the men responsible for the Holocaust were scattered into a little brook in Munich-Solln, and thereupon vanished forever. The true horror of Nazism had been revealed to the world every day for almost a year, and now the grimmest chapter in the history of the civilized world was all but closed. While the ashes of Hitler’s top politicians and officers have disappeared into oblivion, not many people are aware of a more divine significance of this historic event, one connected to an episode in Persia over 2,500 years ago.

When King Ahasuerus, then the most powerful man on earth, offered to grant Queen Esther whatever she desired for having saved his life, she replied, “If it please the king, let it tomorrow also be granted to the Jews who are in Shushan to do according to the law of this day, and let the 10 sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.”

This is a remarkable request since Haman’s 10 sons had already been killed by the sword in the citadel of Susa (Esther 9:6-14). Nevertheless, in accordance with Esther’s wishes their 10 dead bodies were hanged. In the Apocryphal Greek version of Esther, chapter 9 verses 13-14 reads: And Esther said to the king, “Let the Jews be allowed to do the same tomorrow. Also, hang up the bodies of Haman’s 10 sons.” So he permitted this to be done, and handed over to the Jews of the city the bodies of Haman’s sons to hang up.

When the Megilla Esther was written, the names of the 10 sons of Haman who were hanged are enumerated. In the Hebrew text, the letters of the names are several times larger than the regular text. Yet, in the second, eighth and eleventh entry in the list, there are three letters; Tav, Shin and Zayn which are only one-half the size of the regular text. This mysterious order has been followed every since. The numerical value of the three diminished letters equals 707.
The Nuremberg Trials ended on October 1, 1946, which corresponded with the Jewish year of 5706. However, the due process of law meant the sentences of the convicted men could not be passed down until after appeals for clemency, of which there were many, had been heard. Finally, the sentences were pronounced. The Jewish New Year had arrived in the interim-it was 5707.

Twelve Nazis were meant to hang-although the method of execution might equally as well have been the firing squad-but Martin Bormann had escaped at the end of the war and was sentenced to death in absentia, and Herman Goering committed suicide two hours before his destined execution, leaving 10 condemned men.

In the early hours of October 16, 1946 during a 90 minute period, these 10 top Nazis went to their death on the gallows. The guards, with precise, ruthless efficiency brought them in one by one to deliver their last words and die. Only Julius Streicher went without dignity. His appearance happened at 2:11 a.m. He had to be pushed across the floor, wild-eyed and screaming, “Heil Hitler!” Mounting the steps, he cried out: “and now I go to God.” He was pushed the last two steps to the mortal spot beneath the hangman’s rope. Streicher swung around to face the witnesses and glared at them. Suddenly he screamed “Purim Fest 1946!” Then he was hanged.

The Megilla Esther had predicted that just as these 10 sons, descendants of Amalek and enemies of the Jews, were hanged, so again in the year 5707 (1946) would 10 other children of Haman be hanged.

The day of the early morning executions the front page headlines of the October 16, 1946 Late City Edition of The New York Times broke the story of what had just happened. In another strange twist, this was the day of Hoshana Raba.

“…On the seventh day of the Succot Holiday (Hoshana Raba), the judgement of the nations of the world is finalized. Sentences are issued from the residence of the King. Judgements are aroused and executed on that day.” Zohar Vayikra 31b

Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

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