Special Collections receives gift of the Wolloch family Haggadah

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Wolloch family Haggadah

While it is easy to think of Special Collections as a static repository, the collection is constantly growing through new acquisitions and donations to better serve the Lehigh community. One such donation came on Saturday, November 11th in the form of the Wolloch Family’s Pessach Haggadah in Memory of the Holocaust, given by Michael and Beth Wolloch and their daughter Allyson ‘21. Special Collections was joined in receiving this generous gift by Professor of History and faculty adviser to the Hillel Society Roger Simon, who describes the Wolloch Haggadah as “a very moving and beautiful work of art,” and said that “In the coming years Hillel will try to incorporate some of the images into its Seder.”

A Haggadah is a Jewish ritual book used in the Passover Seder to retell the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. This Haggadah has special significance to the Wolloch family as it was commissioned by Michael’s parents, Zygfryd and Helene Wolloch, in memory of their parents who died in the Holocaust. Designed by Michael’s cousin David Wander, the Wollochs’s Haggadah draws a connection between the historic tale of enslavement and escape celebrated annually during Passover and the more recent suffering and liberation that the Jewish community experienced during the Holocaust. Commissioned in 1981 and printed in 1985, only 290 portfolio copies of the Haggadah were created. The original printing plates were destroyed afterwards, making this work a truly limited edition.

The Haggadah itself is oversized, measuring at 56 x 42 cm. It features twelve full page color prints, thirty-one illuminated pages, 13 black and white pages, and is written entirely in Hebrew. The illustrations combine traditional symbols from Judaism and the Passover story, including wine cups and pyramids, with symbols of the Holocaust, such as prison uniforms, furnaces, and burning books. One of the most potent recurring symbols in the work is the yellow Star of David, which Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis as a form of identification and segregation. The Star is featured in diverse forms in many of the illustrations and simultaneously symbolizes oppression as well as hope and faith.

Special Collections is honored to add this rare and meaningful work to its collection, where its symbolism and meaning can be explored and interpreted in perpetuity by the Lehigh community. Printed in Israel, this work has been exhibited locally by Michael Wolloch and is held by libraries and museums around the world. Fulfilling Special Collections’ missions of sharing and education, the Haggadah is already being integrated into classes. As part of a November 30 visit to Special Collections by History 154: The Holocaust: History and Meaning, taught by Professor Nitzan Lebovic and TA Zachary Arms, the Wolloch Family Holocaust Haggadah will be on display to students alongside other historic works and artifacts.