Romanian Jews try to stop New York auction of historic document they say was stolen during WWII

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A Jewish community in Romania has urged a New York auction house to halt the sale of a valuable 19th Century memorial register of burials that it believes was stolen during World War II.

The Jewish community in Cluj, northwest Romania, has asked auction house Kestenbaum & Company to not offer for sale a 19th Century handwritten memorial register of the city’s Jewish burials that it believes was stolen during the Holocaust, Baabel magazine reported.

The bidding is scheduled to take place Thursday and the Jewish community said it had only learned of the auction “accidentally” five days earlier.

The letter from the Jewish community, which was published in the Romanian magazine Baabel states that register is of “great documentary value” and was “illegally appropriated by unidentified persons”

It argues that because it was stolen, it “falls under the provisions of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty and the 2009 Declaration of Terezin.”

Signed by 46 states including the U.S., Romania and Hungary, which controlled Cluj during WWII, the treaties provide for the restitution to their rightful owners of goods illegally appropriated by states or their citizens.

“According to the aforementioned peace treaty, they should be returned to the ‘community of survivors’, in this case, the Jewish Community of Cluj,” the letter says.

It covers 50 years in the life of the Jewish community and is “a valuable work of art”  due to its exceptional graphic presentation.”

Signatories said they had also reached out to the World Jewish Restitution Organization to help them recover the document.

Cluj, home to Hungarians and Germans as well as Romanian over the centuries, had 16,000 Jews before 1944, most of which spoke Hungarian. The city was under Hungarian control for much of WWII.

In 1944, 18,000 Jews from the city and surrounding area were deported to Auschwitz where most of them died.

The community now numbers just 400 people including people who have married into the community.


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