Page 63 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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these books and was satisfied that the tide was properly in the would-be con­
signor. . . .There were 62 books listed in the catalogue rather than 59, and the
introduction to the catalogue indicated that the offerings were comprised o f
‘the selected property from various American and Continental collections,. . . ’
In a parenthetical postscript to the introduction, the existence o f ex libris mark­
ings on the texts indicating former ownership by the Hochschule drawn to the
attention of the reader.. . .
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 tal­
mudic scholar formerly on the Hochschule’s faculty. Dr. Guttmann had trans­
ferred tide to the collection to his wife, Manya, in January of 1984 upon advice
o f counsel.
Dr. Guttmann claims tide to the collection by virtue o f an agreement with
the chairman o f the Board of the Hochschule, Dr. Heinrich Veit Simon. Ac­
cording to Dr. Guttmann, after Crystal N igh t. . . , the Nazi-orchestrated pub­
lic attack on Jews and their property which occurred in 1938, Dr Veit Simon
became increasingly concerned about the safety o f the Hochschule’s library. It
came to the Chairman’s attention that Dr. Guttmann had secured a visa to em­
igrate to the United States. During the Nazi regime, such emigration was car­
ried 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 i f 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 be­
long to Dr. Guttmann. Dr. Guttmann’s affidavit sets forth in considerable de­
tail the risks which he undertook 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 li­
brarian, apparently perished in the Holocaust. The third person met Dr. Gutt­
mann after the war but never mentioned the books.
The Attorney General has challenged two aspects of Dr. Guttmann’s story:
his claim that he was given title to, rather than entrusted with, the collection,
or alternatively, his claim that Dr. Veit Simon had the authority to transfer tide
The Guttmann Affair