A 16th century two-volume Bomberg/Pratensis Rabbinic Bible is back in the hands of its rightful owners 71 years after it was stolen by the Nazis. Today, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York returned the Bible to Vienna’s Jewish community, known as Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (IKG). This repatriation marks the third time this year that ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have repatriated artwork or property stolen during the Holocaust.
During the annexation of Austria in 1938, Nazi soldiers confiscated the rare Bible from the IKG library. On Nov. 9, 1938, known to history as “Kristallnacht,” or “Crystal Night,” the Gestapo seized and sealed the IKG library. Custody of the IKG library was transferred to the “Reichssicherheitshauptamt” (RSHA) in Berlin between 1939 and 1941. When Berlin was evacuated in 1943, main sections of the IKG library were transferred to other Nazi-occupied territories in Lower Silesia, a province of Poland, and North Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic.
The Rabbinic Bible, published between 1516 and1517, is a manuscript that includes an Aramaic summary and a series of commentaries by key medieval rabbinic figures including 11th century French scholar Rashi, late 12th/early 13th century Provencal scholar David Kimche, 13th century Spanish scholar Nachmanides and 14th century French scholar Gersonides.