Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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approp ria te Jewish institutions”; but the “press” did not publish
McGill repo rted that “some Jewish groups have questioned
the legality o f the sale,” and he named the Anti-Defamation
League o f B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Restitution Successor O r ­
ganization (JRSO), “which was empowered by the U.S. Military
Government in postwar Germany to receive heirless p rope r ty .”
Both organizations expressed the fear that the books m ight have
been stolen o r confiscated by Nazis. McGill also noted tha t many
o f the books and manuscripts had formerly belonged to the
Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Juden thum s . In teres ting ­
ly, he then though t that only 33 o f the 62 lots in the sale had
come from the Hochschule; and, later in the affair, Sotheby’s
was accused o f disguising and otherwise obscuring which books
had been and which had not been in the Hochschule. McGill
sometimes wrote o f 31 books and others calculated o the r totals
from the ambiguous hints in the catalog. Even by August 15,
Judge Robert E. White still spoke without certainty o f “about
59” books and manuscripts.
What McGill did not repo r t in that first article was the intense
level o f speculation about who the consignor was and the ne ­
gotiation between Sotheby’s and the Jewish Theological Sem­
inary for a private sale, before the auction, o f the two prize
The re were speculation and attempts to research an answer
to the perplexing question o f who had had those books and
manuscripts for forty-two or more years while the world
though t o f them as destroyed by the Nazis, if it though t o f
them at all. McGill himself became interested in surviving
Hochschule faculty and students and their heirs. At first, the
focus was on Ismar Elbogen who came to the U.S. from Ger­
many in 1938. Elbogen was wrongly remembered by many4 as
the smuggler o f the Zunz Collection from the Hochschule. At
one point, McGill questioned
almost hostilely about the Zunz
Collection, saying that it was widely known that the Collection
was given to the Hebrew Union College Library by Elbogen,
and by implication, that maybe Elbogen also gave HUC the
books and manuscripts in the auction. Others, with even less
grounds, actually spread a rum o r that HUC was the consignor.
4. McGill,
New York Times,
June 19, 1984, quotes Ismar Schorsch.