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The Lost Books of a Polish Yeshiva and Their Mysterious Fate

Sept. 25 2017

In February 1940, the Deutsche Jugend Zeitung, the official news organ of the Hitler Youth, published a story about the German seizure of the yeshiva in the city of Lublin. This act was followed, according to the article, by the ceremonial burning of its 30,000 books. But the story is without corroboration from contemporary sources, and recently historians have concluded that it was mere propaganda intended to stir the enthusiasm of young Nazis. But where, then, did the books from one of Poland’s largest yeshivas go? Barbara Finkelstein discusses what is known:

[The Polish historian Adam] Kopociowski contends that the Germans preferred stealing surreptitiously from Jewish individuals and Jewish organizations [to such public burnings]. He has learned that they sent Lublin’s vast holdings to the so-called Lublin Staatsbibliothek, a German state library that served as a depot not only for the yeshiva books, but also books from the Jesuit College Bobolanum, the Municipal Public Library, the Catholic University of Lublin, and the H. Lopacinski Memorial Library. To catalogue the Jewish religious texts, the German-appointed [official] Vasyl Kutschabsky recruited Rabbi Aron Lebwohl, a brilliant yeshiva student and one-time secretary to Rabbi Meir Shapiro, [the founder and former head of the Lublin yeshiva].

From April 1941 to November 1942, Rabbi Lebwohl labored at his task. Well before its completion, though, he was deported with the rest of the Lublin ghetto to Majdanek, the nearby German concentration and extermination camp. According to Nazi records, Lebwohl went straight into the gas chambers. His catalogue has never been found. . . .

As for the books themselves, it seems they were originally intended for a planned Nazi “museum of an extinct race.” A number were supposed to be shipped to Berlin. But where they actually went, writes Finkelstein, is a mystery. Yet the books have turned up in a variety of settings, from Jewish libraries to auction houses, and they now seem to be “all over the place.” How they were scattered also remains a matter of speculation.

Read more at Forward

More about: Books, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Polish Jewry

 

Europe Has a Chance to Change Its Attitude toward Israel

Dec. 15 2017

In Europe earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu met with several officials and heads of state. Ahead of his visit, the former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein addressed a letter to these European leaders, urging them to reevaluate their attitudes toward the status of Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the gravity of European anti-Semitism, and the threat posed by Hamas and Hizballah. In it she writes:

For years, the relationship between Europe and Israel has been strained. Europe tends to criticize Israel for simply defending itself against the continual threats and terrorist attacks it faces on all its borders and inside its cities. Europe too often disregards not only Israel’s most evident attempts to bring about peace—such as its disengagement from Gaza—but also chides it for its cautiousness when considering what solutions are risky and which will truly ensure the security of its citizens.

The EU has never recognized the dangers posed by Hamas and Hizballah, as well as by many other jihadist groups—some of which are backed by [the allegedly moderate] Fatah. The EU constantly blames Israel in its decisions, resolutions, papers and “non-papers,” letters, and appeals. Some of Europe’s most important figures insist that sanctions against the “territories” are necessary—a political stance that will certainly not bring about a solution to this conflict that . . . the Israelis would sincerely like to resolve. Israel has repeated many times that it is ready for direct negotiation without preconditions with the Palestinians. No answer has been received.

The European Union continues to put forth unrealistic solutions to the Israel-Palestinian issue, and the results have only aggravated the situation further. Such was the case in 2015 when it sanctioned Israeli companies and businesses in the territories over the Green Line, forcing them to close industrial centers that provided work to hundreds of Palestinians. The Europeans promoted the harmful idea that delegitimizing Israel can be accomplished through international pressure and that negotiations and direct talks with Israel can be avoided. . . .

[Meanwhile], Iran’s imperialist designs now touch all of Israel’s borders and put the entire world at risk of a disastrous war while Iran’s closest proxy, Hizballah, armed with hundreds of thousands of missiles, proudly presents the most explicit terrorist threat. Europe must confront these risks for the benefit of its citizens, first by placing Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations and secondly, by reconsidering and revising its relationship with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Europe and Israel, European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy