Faith in the Eye of the Storm

The following 1943 exchange of letters between Rabbi Gescheit of Berlin and Rabbi Jacob Katzenstein of Hamburg describes the construction of a Hamburg ritual bath in the depths of wartime Germany.

Rabbi Katzenstein wrote:
To the Rabbi, our Teacher and Mentor, Rabbi Michael Chaim Dr. Gescheit, in Berlin. Herewith I send a copy of a memorial scroll that I composed in honor of the Almighty and in praise of the people who labored and troubled on the building of the new mikveh, which has now been completed with the aid of Heaven, and this scroll has been hidden among the stones of the wall of the mikveh in order to fulfill the commandment "Let the stones cry out from the wall"...

Rabbi Gescheit replied:
To his Honor, the great scholar and outstanding rabbinical authority, Rabbi Jacob Katzenstein in Hamburg. I received your esteemed letter of Thursday in the Week of the Portion Yisro, together with the copy of the memorial document and I am indebted to your honored Excellence for much gratitude, for despite the sad contents I read your beautiful verses with great pleasure. We must assuredly mourn the shrinking of the Hamburg community, but it nevertheless remains a great city in Israel and, despite the very difficult conditions, its leaders carry out their duties as it is commanded. Through this service they will hasten the day when sons will return to the Land, and when you will inscribe on a stone plaque on the wall what you have now hidden between the stones of the wall, in order to tell future generations of the devotion of the spirit and courage of your heart at a time of trial and oppression. It has also been an example for us, for what happened to you happened to us. The building in Raben Street, which housed our mikveh, has been sold, and we may perhaps be able to use its purification water for the present week... and may the Almighty open up for us soon wells of purification and the wells of salvation... Amen.
Your faithful servant,
Michael Chaim Gescheit