35.8 F
New York
Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Artifacts From Eastern European Jewish Communities Seized from NY Auction House

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Must read

By Ilana Siyance

A Brooklyn-based auction house was getting ready to sell manuscripts and artifacts dating from 1840 up to the start of World War II. The historic artifacts were stolen from Eastern European Jewish communities during World War II. On Thursday, Federal officials announced that they have seized the artifacts as part of an “extensive” investigation, as per a Justice Department statement.

As reported by Barrons, New York-based auction house Kestenbaum & Company was due to sell 17 manuscripts, funeral scrolls and community records from the 19th-century, before they were seized. The artifacts had been looted “in the midst of our world’s darkest of times” during the Holocaust, from countries including Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia, said Peter Fitzhugh, special-agent-in-charge at the Department of Homeland Security Investigations. “We are fortunate to be part of the team that is able to return these artifacts to their rightful Jewish communities,” Fitzhugh added, in the statement.

In February, law enforcement had learned that the auction house was planning on selling the items, which include prayers for the dead, community rules, names of religious leaders and in even the names of community members sent to the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz. The sale was suspended due to the request from the Jewish community in the Romanian city Cluj-Napoca and the World Jewish Restitution Organization, a group created to aid in the restitution of stolen Jewish property.

Without having any paper trail, “there is no legitimate means by which the manuscripts and scrolls could have been imported into the United States,” said a statement from the Justice Department. The auction house had already sold some of the artifacts before it was contacted by law enforcement, but stopped the sales once it was alerted, as per the affidavit. Still the officials seized the remaining artifacts to be certain that Kestenbaum & Company would continue to cooperate, the affidavit added. “The items are in demand from buyers across the globe and can be easily sold and/or transferred to frustrate the government’s efforts to unite them with the survivors and successors of the originating communities,” said the Justice Department statement.

In a response, Kestenbaum & Company said: “Our client rescued these historical records at a time when they were tragically left abandoned, in countries that were, as state policy, actively suppressing both Jewish memory of the past as well as the freedom of expression of the handful of surviving Jews still resident in these Communist lands.” It added, “Kestenbaum & Company supports the actions of the US Attorney’s office in the ongoing effort to appropriately resolve this meta-historical problem.”

balance of natureDonate

Latest article