After the Holocaust, the decimated Jewish community of Austria asked the Jewish people’s central archive in Jerusalem to take possession of historical documents. Now strong and prosperous, it’s suing for their return.
It is not easy to find the Jewish people’s archives, at the easternmost edge of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus. Only one bus stops nearby. Anyone hoping to reach the place by car will be stopped at the security barrier at the other end of the campus.
Across a large parking lot, down a hill, next to the outer fence of the university, in an enclosure that goes by the misleading name High-Tech Village, are two, old one-story buildings that were once student dorms. Here are the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People.
The archives have existed in various incarnations since 1938. Proprietorship is divided between the government, the Jewish Agency, three universities (Hebrew University, Tel Aviv, and Bar-Ilan ) and several other bodies. The extensive data here document the lives of Jews in the Diaspora from the 12th century to today. They include 60 million documents, 11 million microfilm frames, 15,000 photographs, and 14,000 books and publications. The jewel in the crown is the 1,600 archives of communities, organizations and families that are housed here.
Two weeks ago, in an unprecedented move, the Jewish community of Austria filed a lawsuit in the Jerusalem District Court in a bid to compel the archives to return thousands of documents, dating from the 1600s to 1945, that deal with the lives of Austria’s Jews during that period, which includes, of course, the German occupation.
Lawsuit: "We Want Our Archives Back"
Filed by May 13, 2011on