How an Heirloom Bible Found Its Way to Its Rightful Owners after Eighty Years

August 31, 2021 | Nicole Asbury
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A few years ago, an art historian came upon an ornate Tanakh—with drawings by the famed 19th-century illustrator Gustave Doré—for sale on eBay. He purchased it, and then donated it to a local synagogue. Four years later, its origins were pieced together. Nicole Asbury tells the story:

A father and son in Oberdorf, Germany in 1990 were renovating the home they’d just bought when they came across something unusual: a chest hidden behind a double wall in the attic. Tucked inside the chest was a large, gilded Jewish Bible that looked like it had been carefully placed there. It was heavy, about 22 pounds, and almost 30 inches long and three inches high. . . [T]he son held onto it for nearly 30 years. But in April 2017, he decided to sell it on eBay. . . .

The Bible, it turned out, was part of the legacy of Eduard and Ernestine Leiter, a Jewish couple from Stuttgart killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. . . . The Nazis forced them to move to Oberdorf . . . to live with seven other Jewish families. In August 1942, the Germans sent the couple to Theresienstadt, a ghetto and concentration camp outside Prague. Before the Leiters left the home in Oberdorf, they hid all their valuables and personal items—including their jewelry, some letters, and an 1874 edition of the Jewish Bible—in hopes of returning and retrieving their keepsakes. They never returned.

The Leiters’s son, Sali, was the lone survivor in the family. That’s when the family story becomes remarkable: Sali’s descendants—who did not know much about him—came to possess his parents’ Bible. It landed this summer on their doorstep in New York.

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