Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Books with markings of the Theresienstadt, the prisoner-run Ghetto Central Library

If only books can talk! Despite handling endless books every day, I am often reminded that every book has it's own story to tell, and every copy of a book has a unique identity and history. In a fine Jewish home in Brooklyn, NY, I came across 2 volumes with a haunting past, both had markings of the Theresienstadt Central Library, or TC as it was recorded in these volumes. The first, titled Eshet Hayil, by R. Zvi Hirsch Farber, was gifted by the Author to the Rabbinical seminary in Berlin, during the year of publication of 1934. The second titled Sur Mera, by Yehuda Aryeh De Modena, was printed in Vilna in 1903. Both ended up in Theresienstadt Central Library somehow, and found their way to NY after the war. Perhaps these books helped some prisoners find comfort in the inhumane conditions they found themselves in.

The Theresienstadt Central Library was one of several libraries in the combined ghetto and camp. The Central Library had been opened on the order of the camp commandant in November 1942 and remained active until the camp was dissolved, although the bulk of library staff was deported to Auschwitz in autumn of 1944 after the library had been beautified and shown to the Red Cross. During its years in operation, the library grew from a collection of 4,000 volumes to, at the end of the war, 180,000. Books included Hebraica, Judaica, fiction and classics alongside volumes of philosophy, history, and linguistic and scientific literature. The books had been confiscated from private individuals as well as from libraries, with 75% originating in Czechoslovakia and the rest coming from the German Reich. After the war, the holdings of the library were largely transferred to the Jewish Museum in Prague and, secondarily, to the Jerusalem National Library. (from wikipedia)

Hat-tip: Dan Rabinowitz

1 comment:

  1. Interesting.

    I happen to have a בתי כהונה written by the only Ashkenzi rabbi to serve as a Rishon LeZion in EY הרב יצחק הכהן רפפורט printed in Izmir 1736 with the same provenance. Aside for a Ladino inscription on the title page which I don't understand, stamps and inscription show that it first belonged to Rabbiner Dr. Salomon Cohn,

    then to the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin (R. Dr. Salomon Cohn past away in 1902 and bequeathed his library to the Seminary see here: )

    then to the Theresienstadt Central Library,

    then to R. Ruderman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel

    and finally to me!

    Check out images here: