SWC Calls On Russia To Immediately Release Looted Property Of Revered Rabbi Held By The Russian Government

July 25, 2018

Also Calls on President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo to rescind US Opposition

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has submitted an amicus curiae brief in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the lawsuit Agudas Chasidei Chabad of the United States v. Russian Federation. The brief was filed by Martin Mendelsohn, the Center’s legal counsel and former head of the Office of Special Investigations of the US Justice Department.

The Center’s brief expresses its strong support for Chabad’s efforts to reclaim the sacred Chabad library, which was stolen by the Government of the Soviet Union during the immediate post-revolutionary period, and to reclaim Chabad’s own archives, which were stolen by the Nazis and then confiscated as “war booty” by the Soviet Union after World War II.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Martin Mendelsohn called on President Putin to immediately return the library and for President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo to rescind the US opposition and allow the library to be returned to their rightful owners as soon as possible.

“The Schneerson Library, made of of thousands of books and archives, is a source of inspiration to hundreds of thousands of followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbes, and to millions of others deserves more respect than to be lying in a basement or warehouse somewhere in Moscow for 73 years,” Hier and Mendelsohn said.

Photo: A wine-stained page from the ancient haggadah in the Schneerson Collection. (Courtesy)

Soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, the government of the Soviet Union unlawfully confiscated the Chabad organization’s Library, which included religious texts that had been annotated by the organization’s religious leaders. After brutal persecution by the Soviet regime, the Chabad organization decamped from the Soviet regime to Poland. During World War II, the Nazis looted the organization’s archive which included religious manuscripts and other documents. At the end of World War II, Soviet troops found the stolen Chabad Archive and brought it to Moscow where it remains with the Chabad Library in Russian possession.

The Center’s brief also questions the basis for the United States Department of State’s position in the case. In 2016, the United States Department of State filed a “Statement of Interest” in the district court in which it argued that Chabad’s efforts to retrieve its stolen library and archives are contrary to international law and norms. The Government’s position has been a significant impediment to Chabad’s efforts to secure the return of its property over the last two years.

The Center calls for the State Department to withdraw its position, and for the district court to allow Chabad’s efforts to retrieve its sacred books, manuscripts, and papers to proceed.

For more information, contact the Center’s Communications Director, Michele Alkin, 310-739-8063, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter feed.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

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