Russia refuses to turn over Jewish library to U.S.
A U.S. judge last week ruled against the Russian government for its refusal to return thousands of manuscripts seized by Nazis from Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi.
By Haaretz and the Associated Press
Russia has rejected a United States court ruling to turn over a Jewish library to a Hasidic group in New York.
A U.S. judge last week ruled against the Russian government for its refusal to return thousands of manuscripts that once belonged to a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi.
At issue are 12,000 religious books and manuscripts seized during the Bolshevik revolution and the Russian Civil War and 25,000 pages of handwritten teachings and other writings of religious leaders seized by Red Army in Nazi Germany as war booty.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said late Wednesday that the ruling is a rude violation of international law.
It said the library was nationalized because its owner, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, had no heirs. Schneersohn was forced to leave Russia in 1927.
The ministry said the library is available for scientific study and worship.
Chabad-Lubavich said it feared some manuscripts were headed to the black market.Chabad sued Russia in 2004 after other efforts had failed in recovering its original texts.
The texts had been transported from Poland to Moscow by the Red Army at the end of World War II as "trophy documents" and "war booty" to the Russian State Military Archive.
In June, the Russian government said it would no longer participate in the lawsuit, telling a Washington District Court that it had "no authority to enter orders with respect to the property owned by the Russian Federation and in its possession."
It added that the United States could deal with the dispute through diplomatic channels and Chabad should file suit in a Russian court.
"Russia is showing its contempt and disdain for international law, the American judicial system, and basic principles of fairness and justice," Nathan Lewin, a lawyer for Chabad, said in a statement.
The head of Lubavitch in Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar, has said he favors a diplomatic solution to securing the return of the collections. "This is probably more efficient to convince the Russians," he said.
The 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn had three daughters and one grandson. All were living in 1927. The last living daughter passed away more than 60 years later, and the grandson, Barry Gourary, passed away in 2005.
I think the court action to recover the library started after the passing of the Rebbe's wife, one of those granddaughters, and the only living heirs would have been the hated grandson of the 6th rebbe, Barry Gourary and his mother Chana, and his children.
In other words, Chabad may have claimed the library belonged to the movement rather than to the family in order to keep the books away from Barry Gourary. Russia's response to this claim may be what the AP notes above,"the library was nationalized because its owner, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, had no heirs."