Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

Basic HTML Version

85
Jewish Book during Nazi Era
countries, especially Holland and France, after their occupation by
the Nazis. In the Nazi-occupied Soviet territories, 532 synagogues
and 258 other buildings belonging to religious institutions whose
denomination is not specified, were “burned, looted, destroyed
and desecrated,” according to General R. H. Rudenko, Chief Pros­
ecutor for the U.S.S.R., before the Nuremberg International M il­
itary Tribunal (IMT, vol. VII, p. 189). Inasmuch as Jewish
religious buildings had long since been nationalized in the Soviet
Union proper, the U.S.S.R. prosecutor listed only the synagogues
destroyed in the former Polish areas of the U.S.S.R. The Nazis put
the torch not only to Jewish books, but also, in a limited degree, to
non-Jewish books. In his book
Vilner Ghetto
(Paris, 1945), Abra­
ham Sutzkever, the Jewish poet, asserts that Dr. Johannes Pohl, a
high German official, ordered the burning of the books in the
medical library of the Vilna University Hospital. Other non-Jew­
ish libraries are also known to have been pillaged, but the vandal­
ism never attained the dimensions directed against Jewish
institutions.
Simultaneous with the destruction of Jewish books, the Nazis
inaugurated a policy of saving a small number of rare and precious
volumes for commercial and scholarly purposes. These looted
items were offered for sale by agents in various European coun­
tries. The well-known Jewish historian, Cecil Roth, stated in an
address in April, 1943: “More than once in pre-war days I was of­
fered, through reputable agencies in this country [England], ob­
jects of art of German-Jewish provenance, sold by order of the
Nazi Government; and in 1939 even the contents of the Jewish
Museum in Berlin were hawked about the art world on the instruc­
tion of the Reich Minister of Finance.” In the same address Dr.
Roth stated also: “After the German occupation of Lithuania, new
copies of the much-reviled Talmud, from the famous Rom Press in
Vilna, were offered for sale in Amsterdam, in return for ready
money.” Copies of rare Jewish books and manuscripts were also of­
fered for sale, according to unconfirmed reports, by Nazi agents in
Switzerland.
A few “intellectuals” among the Nazi leaders came to realize