Hungarian rabbi finds 103 stolen Torah scrolls in Russia

Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:39pm EST
 
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - 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.

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.

He called it an historic find and added that once the scrolls are restored he would try to take them on tour around the world, including to the United States and Israel.

"I think it's the first time in history when such a large collection of Judaica with 100 Torah scrolls in one place was discovered," Koves said.   Continued...

 
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