Today, over 300 Members of Congress led by Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for the return of the Schneerson Collection. This collection, a large anthology of Jewish manuscripts and texts of the Chabad Lubavitch community, has been held for decades in the Russian State Library and Russian Military Archives.
“It is particularly fitting that we are sending this letter on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, because many of the books were taken by the Nazis during the Holocaust,” said Representative Waxman.
One portion of the Schneerson Collection, was seized in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. The other part was confiscated by the Nazis in Poland and carted off by the Soviet Army at the end of World War II. The letter urges the return of these books to their rightful owners–Agudas Chassidei Chabad-Lubavitch of the United States.
“I would hope that the Russian Government would look at the suffering, the blood and the tears shed for this treasure of the human spirit and return the Collection to Chabad,” Representative Cardin added.
“Next week, in Moscow, dozens of world leaders will commemorate the victory over Nazi fascism. Restoring the Schneerson Collection to the Chabad community would be another victory, a symbolic one to be sure, over the forces that tried to eradicate Jews and Judaism.”
On April 6, 2005, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on this issue entitled “The Schneerson Collection and Historical Justice.” Representative Smith is the co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission and Representative Cardin is the Ranking Democrat.
Following is the text of the letter:
May 5, 2005
The Honorable Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing in concurrence with a recent letter sent by our colleagues in the United States Senate to respectfully request your assistance in returning the Schneerson collection of religious texts from the Russian State Library and the Russian State Military Archive to its rightful owners in the United States: Agudas Chasidei Chabad of the United States.
As you are aware, Chabad has long sought to recover the Schneerson collection, which is comprised of religious texts on Jewish philosophy, religious law, and tradition. These rare and irreplaceable writings form a vital part of Chabad’s cultural and spiritual heritage. A portion of the Schneerson collection was seized by Communist authorities around the time of the Bolshevik revolution and placed in the Russian State Library, where it remains to this day. The second portion of the collection was confiscated by the Nazis during the Holocaust in Warsaw and later captured by the Soviet Army at the end of World War II and transferred to the Russian State Military Archive.
As the Russian Federation prepares for the May 9, 2005 celebration marking the 60th anniversary of Victory Day and the surrender of Nazi Germany, we urge you to take this opportunity to return the entire Schneerson collection to its rightful owners in the United States. Your timely action would be a significant gesture of your government’s commitment to justice, human rights, and religious tolerance.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.