Efforts to reclaim stolen Hungarian-Jewish treasures

For more than 20 years, unknown people have been systematically looting Hungarian Jewish Orthodoxy, whose invaluable historical documents are being sold for profit at auctions.

In all likelihood, we will never know the number of Hungarian Jewish historical documents stolen around the world. The Hungarian Orthodox Jewish community is thus fighting for its stolen treasures, as outlined in a piece this past February by Bennem Élő Eredet, a site that deals with the preservation of the values of rural Jewry. 

The community, which was organized in 2020, wrote that the worrying phenomenon of Jewish documents being auctioned off into private hands was brought to light by a researcher.

They were particularly alarmed by one public auction set to take place in early 2021, on February 15th, that listed a package of 62 (!) items, with a starting price of $3,500.

The rabbinical documents, written mostly in Hungarian and German between 1830 and 1944, included not only death and birth records, but also various treaties, private correspondences, and other denominational documents related to members of the community. Most of them had previously been the property of Jewish communities in Hungary.

Experts contacted by Bennem Élő Eredet at the National Library of Israel and the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People believe that the inclusion of Hungarian documents in various auctions has been a phenomenon for at least 20 years. The items on sale this past February are said to be

an invaluable treasure, based on the fact that the documents include the manuscripts of the disciples of prominent rabbis, as well as the manuscripts and personal reflections of prominent Orthodox leaders.

Tamás Lózsy, a member of the archives of the Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community of Hungary said at the time that 

these documents were clearly stolen, although it is at least as difficult to prove this as it is to determine exactly where the documents came from.

Lózsy has been working to get the community to mobilize everything and everyone they can to get the documents back. To this end, they will also look for organizations and individuals in America who, they hope, will also offer their support.