Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

Basic HTML Version

W ill you fo rg ive me i f I tell you a little bit o f the story o f how the
collection was gathered o f which I happen to be the tem pora ry
It happened to me by accident, and I am sure every book
collector can tell the same sort o f story. Abou t twenty-five years
ago, the Jewish W e lfa re Board established its Chaplaincy C om ­
mittee, to cooperate with the A rm y , Navy, and A ir Force. Since
the armed services were not competent in determ in ing the re lig i­
ous qualifications o f candidates fo r chaplaincy, they asked C ard i­
nal Spellman to organ ize his Military Ordinariate, a similar one
was organized fo r the Protestants, and the Jewish W e lfa re Board
established the Chaplaincy Commission fo r us. Immediately,
legal questions were brought b e fo re it. Th ey , there fore , ap­
pointed a Lega l Committee, composed o f Dr. Jung, a very fine
scholar, that wonderfu l, deceased M ilton Steinberg, and myself.
For some reason, I was asked to be Chairman, and I had to learn
how to write legal responsa. W e bought the classic books that were
available on the East Side and I got together about f ifte en or
twenty books. Th en the L o rd intervened through his instrument,
G eorge E. Patton, in a peculiar way. You remember Tank Gen ­
eral Patton and his pearl-handled revo lver? Rosenberg, that crazy
Balt, that advisor o f H itle r on minorities, had at first decided that
all Hebrew books should be burned, and they had the bon fire .
Th en he decided that, since the Reich would last a thousand
years, it should establish an anti-Semitic Institute to influence the
world. Hebrew books would be needed fo r it. So they started to
preserve the confiscated Hebrew books. T h e re fo re , as the Nazis
spread over Europe, they confiscated private and public libraries,
all the way down to Salonika. T h e y stored them all in O ffenbach ,
outside o f Frankfurt. Thus there was packed in O ffenbach the
greatest collection o f Hebrew books and manuscripts that man­
kind ever saw or ever will see. T h en all o f a sudden, General
Patton with his tanks captured O ffenbach and the Am erican
A rm y was in possession o f this marvelous collection. N ow what
could the Am erican A rm y do with such booty? Well, the H eb rew
Un ion Co llege go t some o f the books. T h e H ebrew Un iversity at
Jerusalem got ha lf o f them. Th is was quite right, because the
Chaplaincy Comm ittee considered that clearly the H eb rew U n i­