Despite a lawsuit by the Chassidic movement, Russia will not turn over a library of Chabad-Lubavitch documents to the group’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York City; and a U.S. district judge has upheld the Russian’s plea.
The library, collected since 1772 and comprising over 12,000 volumes and 381 manuscripts was originally seized by the Red Army in Nazi Germany as war loot. The Foreign Ministry of the former center of the Soviet Union said that the ruling – that is to hand over the documents to the United States was a “rude violation” of international law. The ruling claimed that because the Rebbe, Joseph Isaac Scheersohn, who was forced in 1927 to leave Russia, had no heirs, that the library was nationalized.
The Russian ministry claims that the library is available for scientific study and worship. Spokesmen of Chabad-Lubavitch in Brooklyn fear that some of the manuscripts in the library could be for sale on the black market.
Another possibility for the future of the library, one which was not mentioned in the proceedings, would be to hand over the manuscripts to the Israeli government since it is the National body of the Jewish people.
For towns such as Kfar Chabad (founded in 1948), Nachalat Har Chabad (founded in 1969) and Kiryat Chabad (founded in 1979), Israel has become a welcome homeland for the Chassidic Movement.
American district Judge Royce Lamberth said the plaintiffs can sue to recover more than 25,000 pages of manuscripts and letters, which properly belong to the Scheersohns. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2004 in California against the Russian Ministry of Culture, the Russian State Library and the Russian State Military Archive.
All of the documents were originally taken to Latvia and then Poland after the Rebbe left Russia in 1927. The Russians seized the library after the outbreak of the Second World War when the Rebbe left for Brooklyn. Since then, they have been filed in a Russian Military Archive.