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Historic Jewish artifacts seized from Brooklyn auction house

Nazis confiscated documents, scrolls originally in WWII Europe

July 22, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Seventeen pre-World War II Jewish artifacts, including funeral scrolls and communal records from Jewish communities in Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia, have been found through a Brooklyn auction house and have been seized by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, according to the Department of Justice.

Three additional artifacts are believed to be in Israel, and in Upstate New York. The scrolls and manuscripts, which date between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, had been illegally confiscated by the Nazis during World War II.

Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, all unclaimed movable Jewish property was to have been returned to the communities of the survivors, according to an affidavit by Megan Buckley, special agent for the Department of Homeland Security.

According to authorities, the auction house, Kestenbaum and Company, located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has been cooperative with the federal government. The firm, which sells many Judaica items (including Marilyn Monroe’s menorah), had planned to auction off the scrolls and manuscripts.

“Absent any provenance or documentation of conveyance from any survivors of those communities, there is no legitimate means by which the Manuscripts and Scrolls could have been imported into the United States,” Buckley’s affidavit stated.

Photo courtesy of Homeland Security Investigations

“The Scrolls and Manuscripts that were illegally confiscated during the Holocaust contain priceless historical information that belongs to the descendants of families that lived and flourished in Jewish communities before the Holocaust. This Office hopes that today’s seizure will contribute to the restoration of pre-Holocaust history in Eastern Europe,” said Jacquelyn Kasulis, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York “I commend the efforts of this Office’s Civil Division and HSI in recovering these important religious artifacts.”

In the affidavit, Buckley added that Hungary, Romania and Ukraine have also enacted laws placing restrictions on cultural and historic items from those nations.

Many of the documents had been thought to have been lost forever.

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  1. Hperlitsh

    Our family is descended from the Romanian Jewish community, having emmigrated in the 1880s. I would like to support this effort on behalf of the current Jewish community in Romania. Is there some way to contact Megan Buckley and Homeland Security to express my support?