Coinciding with World Chess Championship tournament currently taking place in New York, Yad Vashem has launched a unique online exhibition: Chess Sets, a Brief Respite from a Harsh Reality. The online exhibition features20 chess sets from the Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection. These chess sets were used by Jews both before, during and immediately after the Holocaust. Some were crafted during the war, others were made before the war and taken with Jews who were deported from their homes.
Playing chess often helped Jewish prisoners to endure the forced labor and the harsh conditions. For Jews who were in hiding during the war, chess was a way of passing the many idle hours of seclusion over months and even years. At the end of the war, the survivors themselves or the families of those who were murdered kept the chess sets along with the remaining personal effects that remained in their possession. The relatively large number of chess sets preserved in Yad Vashem's Artifacts Collection is evidence of the widespread popularity of the game during the war as a means of providing a brief respite from a harsh reality.
One of the chess sets featured in the exhibition belonged to Elhanan Ejbuszyc. While imprisoned in a labor camp, he took a club that had been used to beat prisoners and carved chess pieces from it. Ejbuszyc later explained: "What I achieved – turning a tool of punishment into a tool of peace after breaking it into pieces and carving chess pieces from it – was to give my fellow Jews a rare chance to forget their pitiful circumstances for a while. That brief moment of solace that I managed to bring to my fellow sufferers filled me with such joy – this was my reward…"
For more information about the chess sets featured here
or about the Yad Vashem's extensive Artifacts Collection
About Yad Vashem :
Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research stands at the forefront of scholarly study on the Holocaust, providing comprehensive infrastructure for further investigation into this calamitous period in human history. The Research Institute is dedicated to advancing international research regarding the Shoah and fostering cooperative projects among academic institutions, as well as encouraging young scholars in their studies.
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was established in 1953. Located in Jerusalem, it is dedicated to Holocaust commemoration, documentation, research and education. www.yadvashem.org