Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jewish Literary and Artistic Treasures Buried in Vilna to Be Unearthed

August 7, 1944
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rare Jewish literary and artistic treasures which were buried in Vilna to save them from the Germans, who destroyed all the museums and libraries in the city, will soon be restored to their former resting places, it was learned here today.

The Jewish poet Abrahab Sutskever, who spent more than two years in the Vilna ghetto, disclosed today that these manuscripts, paintings and incunabula, which were hidden by him and some friends will be unearthed under his direction when he returns to the Lithuanian capital shortly.

These cultural treasures were saved when the Germans assigned Sutskever and several other Jews to forced labor in the libraries and museums they were looting. At every opportunity the poet poet the other slave laborers stole precious works, including letters of Leo Tolstoy, rare religious manuscripts of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, religious and secular art and much similar material.

On one occasion they stole three truck loads of loot from the Smolensk museum from the Vilna railway station where it had been left by the Germans temporarily. When able to, they slipped to the outskirts of the city and buried what they had salvaged.

Most of the contents of the Jewish museums, libraries, synagogues and institutions of learning were destroyed, Sutskever said. In one case, 300 ancient Torahs were used by the Nazi to make lining material for boots, while irreplaceable papers and books were used as fuel in German barracks.

Recommended from JTA