Ancient Bible Expropriated By Nazis Returns To Jewish Community in Vienna

LawFuel.com – US Legal Newswire Service –
PREET BHARARA, United States Attorney for the Southern
District of New York, and JAMES T. HAYES, JR., Special Agent-in-
Charge of the New York Office of the Department of Homeland
Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), announced
today that an ancient Hebrew Bible, seized by Nazis on
“Kristallnacht” exactly 71 years ago, will be returned to its
rightful owner, the Jewish Community of Vienna (Israelitische
Kultusgemeinde Wien, or “IKG”), at a repatriation ceremony held
today at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the
Holocaust. The ancient Bible dates back to the year 1516 and was
originally donated to the IKG by SALOMON COHN in 1908. The
repatriation marks the third time this year that this Office and
ICE have repatriated artwork or property stolen during the
Holocaust.

On November 9, 1938, the Nazis carried out
“Kristallnacht” (Crystal Night), during which Gestapo seized and
sealed the IKG library. After its seizure, the IKG library was
transferred to the “Reichssicherheitshauptamt” (RSHA) in Berlin
between 1939 and 1941. In connection with the evacuation of
Berlin in 1943, main parts of the IKG library were then
transferred to places of recovery in other Nazi-occupied
territories in Lower Silesia, a province of Poland, and North
Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic.

Earlier this year, New York City auction house
Kestenbaum & Company had offered for sale in its June 25, 2009,
auction catalogue, an item described as a “Bible: Venice.
Bomberg, 1516-1517” (the “Bible”). ICE determined that the
ancient Bible described in the catalog was actually part of the
library and property of IKG, up until it had been seized by Nazis
during Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938.

Once ICE and this Office notified the Bible’s owner, a
Swiss consignor, of the Bible’s history, the owner agreed to
return the Bible to the IKG and entered into a voluntary
stipulation, consenting to seizure of the Bible and facilitating
its return to the IKG through this Office and ICE without the
need for any judicial proceedings.

U.S. Attorney BHARARA stated: “Seventy-one years ago
today, on ‘Kristallnacht,’ the Nazis carried out a violent and
coordinated attack on Jewish people, ransacking the places they
lived, worked, and gathered. The passage of time does not
diminish our remembrance, or the duty to return all surviving
works of art and precious symbols stolen by the Nazis. Returning
this Bible to the IKG today is a step toward that worthy goal.”
“The Bible returned today is a priceless inheritance
left to the people of Vienna,” said Special Agent-in-Charge
HAYES. “ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s office are grateful for the
cooperation of Kestenbaum and Company auction house in the
recovery of the Bible, and hope that Kestenbaum’s leadership will
encourage their peers in the industry to take a good look at
their own works.”

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of ICE in
this matter, and its ongoing efforts to find and repatriate
stolen works of art and artifacts.
Assistant United States Attorneys SHARON COHEN LEVIN
and SEETHA RAMACHANDRAN are in charge of the investigation and
repatriation.
09-365 ###

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