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.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Forward

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

 

A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Academia, Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Knife intifada