Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
siderable monetary value even at the time that the institution
was closed.
Forty years after the Holocaust, the collection was offered to
Sotheby’s for consignment by a previously unidentified person.
According to the auctioneer, Sotheby’s undertook a wide-ranging
investigation into the source o f title to these books and was sat­
isfied that title was properly in the would-be consignor . . . There
were 62 books listed in the catalogue rather than 59, and the
introduction to the catalogue indicated that the auction’s offer­
ings were comprised o f ‘the selected property from various
American and Continental co llec tion s ,...’ In a parenthetical
postscript to the introduction, the existence o f ex libris markings
on the texts indicating former ownership by the Hochschule
drawn to the attention o f the read er .. .
It developed that the previously anonymous consignor was . . .
the wife o f a professor emeritus o f Hebrew Union College, an
Ohio institution similar to the Hochschule. The professor is Dr.
Alexander Guttmann, an 82 year old talmudic scholar formerly
on the Hochschule’s faculty. Dr. Guttmann had transferred title
to the collection to his wife, Manya, in January o f 1984 upon
advice o f counsel.
Dr. Guttmann claims title to the collection by virtue o f an
agreement with the Chairman o f the Board o f the Hochschule,
Dr. Heinrich Veit Simon. According to Dr. Guttmann, after Crys­
tal N ig h t . . . , the Nazi-orchestrated public attack on Jews and
their property which occurred in 1938, Dr. Veit Simon became
increasingly concerned about the safety o f the Hochschule’s li­
brary. It came to the Chairman’s attention that Dr. Guttmann
had secured a visa to emigrate to the United States. During the
Nazi regime, such emigration was carried out under the watchful
eye o f the Gestapo, when it was still permitted. The departing
person was not permitted to take any valuables with him. An
attempt to circumvent this stricture could mean death if detected.
According to Dr. Guttmann, Dr. Veit Simon prevailed upon
him to take these books with the promise that if they were carried
to safety, they would belong to Dr. Guttmann. Dr. Guttmann’s
affidavit sets forth in considerable detail the risks which he un­
dertook to smuggle the collection from Germany. There is no
reason to doubt these details nor that Dr. Guttmann succeeded
in his task through a combination o f courage, timing and sheer
good luck. The three persons who allegedly participated in the
turnover o f the books are dead. Dr. Veit Simon died in prison
in 1942, and Jenny Wilde, the Hochschule librarian, apparently