Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
quest.”11 T h e auction took place and realized about $1,230,000
in addition to the $900,000 from the private pre-auction sale.
While the sale marked the end o f a hectic period, two matters
continued quietly and then suddenly e rup ted in the press. The
first was the charge by the A ttorney General, h e rea fte r also
re fe rred to as the Plaintiff, tha t Sotheby’s acted with “persistent
fraud and illegality” because the auction house knew “that the
seller could not prove that he owned the books . . . ” and the
related allegation that Sotheby’s misled prospective buyers and
others with false statements in the catalog and in private con­
versations.12 The Plaintiff sought to nullify the sale and to have
the books and manuscripts restored to a Jewish institution p e r ­
form ing functions comparable to those o f the Hochschule. The
Attorney General also accused the seller o f fraud and sought
to prevent him from getting the proceeds o f the sale. The De­
fendants, that is, Sotheby’s, the consignor, and technically also
the purchasers, denied the charges.
The o ther unfinished business was the identity o f the con­
signor. On August 14, the
New York Times
repo rted on the At­
torney General’s lawsuit. In the same article, it revealed that
the Defendants had provided the Plaintiff with an expurgated
affidavit in which the seller (name and o ther identifiers were
deleted) described how he was given ownership o f the books
an d m anu sc rip ts by th e ch a irm an o f the b o a rd o f the
Hochschule. Opposing affidavits by o ther survivors who had
been connected with the Hochschule contradicted the owner­
ship claim. In one o f these, H erbert A. Strauss said that he
was convinced tha t “the only person who could have signed
that [expurgated] affidavit was A lexander Gu ttm ann .” Strauss’
affidavit is dated August 3, 1984; its information was made pub ­
lic on August 14. A few days later, the world learned tha t Strauss
was right.
CONSIGNORS NAMED
G u ttm ann ’s lawyer quickly surfaced with a long memo “To
The News Media,” revealing the Guttmanns as the sellers and
detailing the ir story. He wrote “T h e re is a story breaking out
11. McGill, June 27, 1984.
12. McGill, August 14, 1984.