Page 21 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

Basic HTML Version

lished.” Rabbi G un ther Plaut, then President o f the CCAR had
himself been a studen t at the Hochschule until 1935 and, along
with others, was sent by the Hochschule to study and be o r ­
dained at HUC in Cincinnati. He told the press that fifty mem­
bers o f the CCAR had either gradua ted or attended the Berlin
seminary. He said, “It is inconceivable to me that these items
passed voluntarily into the hands o f private ownership. The
likelihood is that these items were given in trust to individuals
with the hope that someday they would re tu rn to the Jewish
people. We feel that the Conference, with many form er students
and governed by a form er student, has in a sense historical
standing to step forward and say ‘let us know’.” Dr. Alfred
Gottschalk, President o f HUC, was interviewed by McGill and
said that the College would not bid in the sale because the books
and manuscripts were “tain ted .”9
The private sale o f the two major manuscripts did not satisfy
these leaders o f Reform Jewish institutions at least partly be­
cause o f a unique relationship to the Hochschule, which was
Eu rope’s coun terpart to HUC in America. These Reform rabbis,
and ultimately the Attorney General, the JRSO, and others
wanted “full public disclosure o f the history o f ownership o f
the books and manuscripts since the war.” Among individuals
who testified was the late Dr. Fritz Bamberger, formerly a stu­
den t and later a teacher at the Hochschule. Dr. Bamberger ex­
pressed a widely-held view that “it is most unlikely that the
Lehranstalt [= Hochschule] would have unconditionally trans­
ferred any part o f its library to any individual in a m anner
which would give that individual legal title to the p roperty .”10
The feverish activities o f the two weeks or so up to the sale
day o f Ju n e 26 reached a climax when, only a few hours before
the sale, the Attorney General asked the New York Supreme
Court to allow Sotheby’s to hold the auction only to determ ine
the highest bidders but not to allow the consummation o f the
sale “until the Attorney General was convinced the books and
manuscripts were legally owned. The judge rejected the re ­
9. McGill,
New York Times,
June 19, 1984; June 22, and June 27.
10. Fritz Bamberger,
June 25, 1984, p. 2.
1 3