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.

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

UN Troops in Lebanon Don’t Just Ignore Hizballah. They Protect It

Dec. 18 2018

Two weeks ago, IDF officers showed the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) the tunnels that Hizballah has dug into Israeli territory. UNIFIL, whose primary mission is to keep Iran-backed jihadist group from using southern Lebanon to attack Israel, responded with a statement that failed even to name Hizballah. Not only is UNIFIL useless at doing its job, writes Evelyn Gordon, but its very presence helps Hizballah, since countries that contribute troops are afraid to put them in harm’s way by aggravating the terrorists they’re meant to contain.

It’s no coincidence that the major contributors to UNIFIL . . . oppose listing Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The only EU country that does blacklist the entire organization is Holland, which has exactly one soldier in UNIFIL.

The EU and its other member states blacklist only the [organization’s] military wing, not the political wing. And that’s fine with Hizballah because, as the organization itself admits, any distinction between its political and military wings is purely fictitious. Thus, so long as the political wing is legal, Hizballah can still fundraise and recruit freely in Europe.

A complete ban, however, would genuinely hurt Hizballah. According to a 2017 German intelligence report, Germany alone has [on its soil] some 950 Hizballah operatives actively fundraising and recruiting for the organization. Much of that money is raised through charitable donations, but another significant source is organized crime. An EU report published in August described “a large network of Lebanese nationals offering money-laundering services to organized crime groups in the EU and using a share of the profits to finance terrorism-related activities. . . . An EU ban on Hizballah would thus put a serious crimp in its operations.

UNIFIL, by contrast, hasn’t put the slightest crimp in them. . . . To be fair, expecting UNIFIL to stop Hizballah was never realistic. As a senior Israeli official acknowledged this week, few countries would be willing to contribute troops to a mission that actually involved fighting Hizballah. . . . [Yet] UNIFIL has no problem making accusations against Israel. [A] November report that couldn’t “substantiate” Hizballah’s [illegal] arms transfers declared that UNIFIL had recorded 550 Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace and demanded their “immediate cessation.”

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More about: European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Lebanon