Feds seize suspected Holocaust loot from Brooklyn auction house

Among the items confiscated by authorities were manuscripts containing birth, marriage, and burial records for Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.

By World Israel News Staff

Federal agents raided a Brooklyn auction house, seizing 17 Judaica items they said were looted during the Holocaust, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Among the items confiscated by authorities were scrolls and manuscripts containing birth, marriage, and burial records for Jewish communities in Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia.

Nobody has been arrested or criminally charged in connection with the seizure, and U.S. government officials have not revealed which agency carried out the raid.

The investigation began after reports that the Kestenbaum and Company auction house had illegally auctioned off Judaica items that were looted after the Holocaust, without attempting to track down the items rightful owners.

“The scrolls and manuscripts that were illegally confiscated during the Holocaust contain priceless historical information that belongs to the descendants of families that lived and flourished in Jewish communities before the Holocaust,” said Jacquelyn Kasulis, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.

The identity of the seller, who commissioned Kestenbaum and Company for the auction, has not been revealed.

Daniel Kestenbaum, the auction house’s chair, told the Post that the seller “rescued” the items after they were “tragically” abandoned.

“As the political culture and makeup of these countries has changed, so complex questions remain unresolved concerning the material culture left behind by those hundreds of Jewish communities that were devoured by Nazi terror.”

In the Eastern European countries where the artifacts were collected, governments had been committed to “suppressing both Jewish memory of the past as well as the freedom of expression of the handful of surviving Jews.”

Refuting the claim that the seller had looted the items, Kestenbaum said the incident was an example of a “meta-historical problem.”

According to the New York Times, Kestenbaum had withdrawn items from an auction in February 2021, at the request of the World Jewish Restitution Organization and a Jewish community in Romania.