Hungarian rabbi finds 103 Torah scrolls stolen during WW2 in Russian library

By Reuters Staff
February 18, 2014

(Rabbi Baruch Oberlander shows the media how a Torah is used in a synagogue during a news conference in Budapest February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo)

A Hungarian rabbi said on Tuesday he had uncovered 103 Torah scrolls stolen from Hungarian Jews during World War Two and stashed in a Russian library, adding he planned to restore and return them to the Jewish community.

Slomo Koves, chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, said he had found the scrolls while following up a previous recovery of Hungarian war loot in the Lenin Scientific Library in Nizhny Novgorod, 400 km (240 miles) east of Moscow.

In 2006, Russia returned to Hungary more than 100 antique books, including some from the 15th century, that had been brought to the same library in Nizhny Novgorod from the Sarospatak Calvinist College in eastern Hungary. That gave Koves the idea to try looking there for the missing  scrolls. When he visited Nizhny Novgorod in January 2013, he found a room in the library basement with rows of artefacts gathering dust. A  helpful librarian brought out the scrolls one by one for Koves and an associate to photograph and document.

(Rabbi Baruch Oberlander shows the media how a Torah is used in a synagogue during a news conference in Budapest February 18, 2014.  REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo )

The Torah scrolls, which are still in Russia, have a long way to go until they too can be returned, not the least because Russian authorities have just begun to consider what to do with them, Koves said. He said he wants to restore them anyway, and worry later about where they wind up in a permanent home.

Koves told a press conference in a Budapest synagogue that he had no doubt the Torah scrolls had belonged to Hungarian Jews, although they had been stripped of markings that would indicate their origins clearly.

He showed photographs and videos of the scrolls, some of which he said were centuries old and in poor condition.

Read the full story by Marton Dunai here.

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