Stolen Bible repatriated to Vienna


NEW YORK (JTA) — A Bible that vanished from a Vienna library on the eve of Kristallnacht began its journey back to Austria 71 years to the day after its disappearance.

The two-volume, black leather, atlas-sized Bible, printed 493 years ago by Daniel Bomberg in Venice, surfaced last winter when a New York auction house advertised both volumes in a catalog and aroused the suspicion of federal authorities, who confiscated the Bible.

Kestenbaum & Company, the auctioneer who advertised the Bible, estimated its value to be $20,000 to $30,000.

The Bible’s owner, whose name will not be released, “immediately accepted their moral responsibility to have it returned, no matter what financial loss was involved,” Jackie Insel, a Kestenbaum manager, told The New York Times in an e-mail.

Authorities will not charge the owner because he was unaware that the Bible was stolen, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“It doesn’t mean money to us. It’s about spiritual value,” said Dr. Ariel Muzicant, president of the Vienna Jewish community, at a repatriation ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, according to The New York Times.

On Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” that took place in Austria and Germany on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, thousands of Jews were killed or rounded up, and countless pieces of cultural and religious literature and artwork, including 80,000 volumes from Vienna libraries and synagogues, were stolen or destroyed.

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