Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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54
and 3) Statement by James S. Wachs, attorney representing Dr.
and Mrs. Alexander Guttmann. The story broke big all over the
world on August 16; and it was, of 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 Gutt-
manns’ point of view, not that of the Attorney General, was now
before the public: Guttmann had heroically saved about sixty He­
brew books and manuscripts from almost certain destruction forty-
four years earlier, and the books were his to sell because the chair­
man of the Hochschule’s Board of Governors had given him the
books in return for the risks he took in smuggling them out. The
seven pages of data included many details about Guttmann’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 of the Guttmanns as the sellers over­
shadowed, at least for a while, the lawsuit against them and Sothe­
by’s. But, before getting back to the relationships among Gutt­
mann, the Hochschule, and HUC, which are highly relevant to the
Judaica Conservancy Foundation, let us sum up the first phase of
the legal battle in the State of New York’s Supreme Court.
It will be most neutral to quote from Justice Robert E. White’s
Opinion of August 15 and refer to his follow-up Order of Septem­
ber 17, 1984:
The collection consists of approximately 59 of the finest books and manu­
scripts once owned by the
Hochschule Fuer die Wissenschaft desJudentums
(“the
Hochschule”). The Hochschule was a private institution o f Jewish learning lo­
cated in what is now East Berlin; it was closed by the Nazi regime in 1942. The
Hochschule library once housed 60,000 volumes ofJudaica. The collection was
drawn from the finest offerings of the library and includes books and manu­
scripts o f great beauty dating back to the 1400s and 1500s. The collection
would have had considerable monetary value 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