A long-lost manuscript could be returned to Kolozsvár’s Jewish Community, the transindex.ro news portal wrote in a recent piece. A few days ago, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced in a statement the seizure of “17 Jewish Funeral Scrolls, Pinkas Manuscripts and Community Records” that had been taken from Jewish communities in Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia during World War II. The artifacts were found through a Brooklyn auction house that offered them for sale. One of the documents was a funeral record (Pinkas) of Kolozsvár’s Jewish Community; the deceased members of the community had been recorded in this document for about 50 years starting with 1836. The Pinkas is unique as a historical document, but at the same time it has a serious value as a work of art due to its beautiful graphic design.
The members of the Jewish Community in Kolozsvár have learned on the 13th of February, just five days before a bid organized by the Kestenbaum&Company Auction House that the old Jewish manuscripts offered for sale included a valuable record from the 19th century, which was the property of the community.
The statement issued by U.S. judicial authorities last week gives hope to Jewish communities in Eastern Europe whose old manuscripts and books appeared in the bid organized by the New York auction house in February, the Baabel.ro portal pointed out. These valuable documents, which date from the mid-19th century to World War II, were confiscated from Jewish communities and disappeared during the Holocaust.
The 19th century funeral record which belonged to the Jewish Community in Kolozsvár was listed at a starting price of USD 4,000. The community sent a letter to the Kestenbaum&Company Auction House, protesting against the bid. It was stressed that the Pinkas put up for auction represents a priceless document to the Jewish community in Kolozsvár, which was lost without a trace during the Holocaust, and ended up illegally in the U.S. Furthermore, under the terms of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 and of the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, the document should be treated as stolen property, which must be returned to its rightful owner, the Jewish Community in Kolozsvár stated.
The auction house’s response was that the items in question were not their property, but they did withheld the lot in question from the bid so that the community could prove its ownership to the seller. The U.S. attorney’s recemt decision to seize the documents which belonged to the Jewish communities in Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia is certainly a turning point in the matter.
“The Scrolls and Manuscripts that were illegally confiscated during the Holocaust contain priceless historical information […] – prayers for the dead, memorial pages and/or the names of deceased members of the Jewish communities, operating rules of the society, society member payments, obligations, society regulations, the identity of religious leaders, in some cases the names of the society members who were deported by the Nazis to the Auschwitz concentration camp. This Office hopes that today’s seizure will contribute to the restoration of pre-Holocaust history in Eastern Europe” noted acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis in the statement. The next step in the case could be the restitution of the valuable documents, the Baabel portal noted.
Title image: The 19th century funeral record of Kolozsvár’s Jewish Community is a unique historical document, and it is a valuable work of art as well