Page 23 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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ZAFREN / FROM HOCHSCHULE TO JUDAICA CONSERVANCY FOUNDATION
1 5
o f New York today rega rd ing Dr. and Mrs. A lexander
Guttmann o f Cincinnati, whom ou r firm represents. They have
asked us to handle news media inquiries in conjunction with
this matter, which relates to their recent sale o f Hebrew books,
manuscripts and p rints.” The memo described the three accom­
panying documents as 1) Background, overview, chronology;
2) Statement by Dr. Alexander Guttmann; and 3) Statement
by James S. Wachs, attorney representing Dr. and Mrs. Alex­
ande r Guttmann. T h e story broke big all over the world on
August 16; and it was, o f course, largely based on the Guttmann
news release and on McGill’s previous articles in the
New York
Times.
The full background, patently from the Guttmanns’ point
o f view, not that o f the Attorney General, was now before the
public: Guttmann had heroically saved about sixty Hebrew
books and manuscripts from almost certain destruction forty-
fou r years earlier, and the books were his to sell because the
Chairman o f the Hochschule’s Board o f Governors had given
him the books in re tu rn for the risks he took in smuggling them
out. The seven pages o f data included many details about
Gu ttm ann’s initial reluctance, his being talked into the scheme
by Dr. Veit Simon, the dangers, his outwitting the Gestapo twice,
and his success.
The sudden revelation o f the Guttmanns as the sellers over­
shadowed, at least for a while, the lawsuit against them and
Sotheby’s. But, before getting back to the relationships among
Guttmann, the Hochschule, and HUC, which are highly rele­
vant to the Judaica Conservancy Foundation, let us sum up the
first phase o f the legal battle in the State o f New York’s Supreme
Court.
It will be most neutral to quote from Justice Robert E. White’s
Opinion o f August 15 and re fe r to his follow-up O rd e r o f Sep­
tember 17, 1984:
The collection consists o f approximately 59 o f the finest books
and manuscripts once owned by the
Hochschule fu e r die
Wissenschaft des Judentums
(“the Hochschule”). The Hochschule
was a private institution o f Jewish learning located in what is
now East Berlin; it was closed by the Nazi regime in 1942. The
Hochschule’s library once housed 60,000 volumes o f Judaica.
The collection was drawn from the finest offerings o f the library
and includes books and manuscripts o f great beauty dating back
to the 1400’s and 1500’s. The collection would have had con-