Auction House Suspends Sale of 19th-Century Jewish Burial Records

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“Usually if a person dies, he is remembered by his community and his family,” he stated. “But in the case of hundreds of thousands of Jews in Eastern Europe, there was nothing left of them — even their documents were robbed and disappeared. You cannot reconstitute the history of a community without documents. We don’t even have a list of their names.”

While historic Jewish communal registers do sometimes come up on the market, it’s uncommon for therefore many to be provided at public sale without delay, stated Jonathan Fishburn, a vendor in Jewish and Hebrew books in London. The market is usually confined to museums and libraries, although some personal collectors with a connection to a particular area would even be potential clients, he stated. Kestenbaum stated that of about 30,000 public sale tons he has dealt with in his career, solely about 100 concerned such information, which he described as essential for genealogical analysis.

“It’s about saving history,” stated Gideon Taylor, chair of operations on the World Jewish Restitution Organization. The newly found registry “is a treasure and a rare window into the past,” he stated. “Every name on that list matters.”

The discovery of these paperwork is “symbolic of a wider challenge,” he stated. “How do we make sure these pieces of history do not get traded? We want to make sure it gives us a road map going forward. We will be reaching out to auction houses in a more systematic way and looking for partnerships.”