US Justice Department Recovers Valuable Scrolls and Manuscripts Stolen During Holocaust, Pledges to Restore Them to ‘Rightful Jewish Communities’
The US Justice Department has announced the seizure of 17 funeral scrolls, manuscripts and community records looted from Jewish communities in different parts of Eastern Europe during the Nazi Holocaust, pledging to return them “to their rightful Jewish communities.”
The items were seized from an auction house in Brooklyn that had offered them for sale. According to a Justice Department statement on Thursday, in February of this year, “law enforcement learned that an auction house located in the Eastern District of New York had offered for sale 21 manuscripts and scrolls originating from Jewish communities that existed before World War II and the Holocaust. The members of those communities from which the scrolls and manuscripts were taken had been gathered in ghettos, robbed of their property and deported to Nazi death camps, where the majority of them were killed. After the end of World War II, surviving members of the communities returned to find their homes ransacked and buildings emptied of property.”
The age of the manuscripts and scrolls that were seized ranges from the 1840s to the eve of World War II a century later.
“The recovery of these 19th century Judaica manuscripts and scrolls looted during the Holocaust from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine in the midst of our world’s darkest of times, is the culmination of an extensive HSI cultural property investigation, and we are fortunate to be part of the team that is able to return these artifacts to their rightful Jewish communities,” stated Special Agent-in-Charge Peter Fitzhugh.
The Justice Department pointed out that the Judaica items “were confiscated by individuals who had no right to do so during and after the Holocaust. Absent any provenance or documentation of conveyance from any survivors of those communities, there is no legitimate means by which the manuscripts and scrolls could have been imported into the United States.”
Jacquelyn Kasulis, the acting US attorney for Eastern New York, said that the seized material “belongs to the descendants of families that lived and flourished in Jewish communities before the Holocaust.” She hoped that the recovered items would “contribute to the restoration of pre-Holocaust history in Eastern Europe.”