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US judge orders Russian government to return Jewish library

A federal judge in Washington, DC has issued a ruling against the Russian government for its refusal to return a library of historic books and documents to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The documents seized by the Nazis were transferred by the Soviet Red Army as war booty to the Russian State Military Archive.

In an order filed on 30 July and published on Wednesday, Justice Royce Lamberth told the Russian government to surrender to the US Embassy in Moscow, or to representatives of Chabad, the complete collection of religious books, manuscripts, documents and things that comprise the collection, and further ordered the defendants to assist and authorize the transfer of the collection and to provide whatever security and authorization is needed to insure prompt and safe transportation of the collection to a destination of the plaintiff’s choosing.

“This victory is a triumph for justice for the Jewish people and others who abhor the Nazi and Soviet exploitation of victims of genocide, and the unlawful and immoral suppression of religious faith by the current Russian government,” said Seth Gerber, one of the lawyers representing Chabad.

Last year, lawyers for the Russian government argued that judges had no authority to tell the country how to handle the sacred Jewish documents. Under the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a sovereign nation is not immune to lawsuits in cases where property is taken in violation of international law. Lamberth found that the religious group had established its claim to the material.

According to court papers reciting the history behind the case, during the 1990s Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave an explicit assurance to then-US President George H.W. Bush’s emissary, Secretary of State James Baker, that the Russian government would return the library of religious books and manuscripts to Chabad-Lubavitch.

World Jewish Congress

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