[Archived from March 6, 2009]
Millions of Books, Objects Held in Public, Private Collections; Restitution Urged
In a major first step to ensure that Jewish sacred items looted during the Holocaust era are identified and protected, Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman announced that the Claims Conference has produced the “Descriptive Catalogue of Looted Judaica,” the first attempt ever to identify the locations of Judaica worldwide that were looted or lost during the Holocaust or immediately afterward. The catalogue is a listing of all known sources that can help locate and identify this Judaica.
“Identifying the locations of items will help communities and researchers attempting to trace lost and stolen Judaica, and may help stem the flow of trafficking of the more valuable pieces,” said Gideon Taylor, Claims Conference Executive Vice President.
“The Claims Conference is working to shed light on this area of restitution so that sacred items may be returned to their rightful Jewish communities or to the Jewish people,” said Claims Conference Chairman Julius Berman.
The catalogue is available at http://forms.claimscon.org/Judaica. The definition of Judaica encompasses items used in prayer, such as prayerbooks and tefillin, ritual items such as candlesticks and Seder plates used at Passover, and archives, libraries, and objects relating to Jewish life generally.
Although much media focus in recent years has been on art looted by the Nazis, the issue of looted Judaica is of perhaps even greater moral importance. At the end of World War II, after the theft and destruction of several million Jewish households and the Nazis’ attempt to wipe out Jewish culture, there remained in existence in Europe perhaps some 10,000 Torah scrolls, a few hundred thousand ritual items that had not been melted down, and some ten million Jewish books. At present it is believed that several thousand of these Torah scrolls, some tens of thousands of these ritual items, and several million of these books are not in Jewish hands, but in public and private collections around the world.
This catalogue is a continuation of efforts by the Claims Conference and WJRO to promote the restitution of Holocaust-era looted art and cultural property.
The Descriptive Catalogue of Looted Judaica does not list every individual piece of stolen Jewish cultural property, since in many cases the fate of individual items is not known, but it provides a starting point for communities, families, and researchers to identify where sacred and other objects of importance to the Jewish people may now be found.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) represents world Jewry in negotiating for compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs. The Claims Conference administers compensation funds, recovers unclaimed Jewish property, and allocates funds to institutions that provide social welfare services to Holocaust survivors and preserve the memory and lessons of the Shoah.