This article presents a post war history of the looted library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau. Particular focus is given to the restitution of the most valuable part of this library – the collection of manuscripts and incunabula, which was purchased by the Breslau Seminary from the famous Italian bibliophile, Leon Vita Saraval of Trieste. The Saraval Collection, along with numerous Jewish libraries and archives all over Europe, fell prey to the unprecedented Nazi plunder of 1933–1945. The collection was then rediscovered in Prague in the 1990s, and finally transferred from the National Library of the Czech Republic to Poland in 2004. This article describes the collection’s singular journey from German Breslau to Polish Wrocław in the context of the distribution of other parts of the Breslau library during the immediate postwar period. In juxtaposing these two restitution cases, I seek to examine the main arguments and controversies in the debate regarding the status of the Jewish cultural heritage in Europe after 1945, as well as to illuminate its historical development.
© 2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston