Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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46
volved, sometimes involuntarily, on many levels. Partly because of
my position as Director of Libraries and partly because I was at
times the senior available staff person, I was often the college
spokesman to the press and others. Accordingly, I may well be per­
ceived as having an institutional bias as indeed I surely have a per­
sonal bias. Since no one is bias-free, I do not feel at all disqualified
to present this survey.
The bare outline of events follows: After the auction was an­
nounced, there were objections by individuals and organizations
for at least the following reasons: 1) most of the books and manu­
scripts had once belonged to the Hochschule2 fur die Wissenschaft
des Judenthums, the school in Berlin for the training of scholars
and liberal rabbis; 2) the identity of the consignors was being kept
secret; and 3) Sotheby’s did not make clear how the books got from
the Hochschule, which was forced by the Nazis to close in 1942, to
the auction block in 1984. The Attorney General of the State of
New York tried to prevent the sale from being consummated; and
failing that, he tried to undo the outcome of the sale first by injunc­
tion and then by suit against Sotheby’s and the consignors and even
the purchasers. The explosive revelation finally that Alexander
Guttmann, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Union College in Cin­
cinnati, and/or his wife, was the consignor led to much legal and
public debate about whether the Guttmanns had ever obtained
proper title to the materials and about moral issues of benefitting
financially from the sale of what had clearly been Hochschule
property. Preparation for trial led ultimately to a settlement that
was opposed by some but nonetheless went into effect. The settle­
ment included the vesting in the Judaica Conservancy Foundation
of certain books, manuscripts, and funds that were at issue in the
case.
It might also be helpful to visualize the broad chronological di­
visions as follows:
2.
The “Hochschule” was “downgraded” by Nazis to “Lehranstalt,” and the
latter term rather than the former was used in the 1930s.