The volumes vanished into thin air, the looting of Rome’s Jewish Library

The looting of Rome’s Jewish Community Libraries and of the Rabbinical College has been carefully planned. On 30th September 1943, the men from the Einsatztab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, one of the two Nazi organisations specialised in plundering Jewish artwork, books, and archives, carry out an initial inspection. They come back again the next day, and the president of the Jewish community, Ugo Foà, runs for cover. He hides 25 volumes, the ones of greatest value, first inside the community and then, helped by the parish priest, in the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella.
The Nazis show up again on 11th October. They have made arrangements with the shippers Otto and Rosani and three days later the precious collection of the Jewish Library is loaded onto two freight wagons and leaves for an unknown destination. Two days later, on 16th October, over a thousand Jews are captured in Rome and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 16 of them will return.
In December, it’s the Rabbinical College Library’s turn to be targeted. Loaded onto a wagon bound for Frankfurt am Main, after the war it will be found north of the city and over 8 thousand volumes will be returned. To investigate the fate of the Jewish Library, a special Commission was established in 2002 following the work of the Anselmi Commission, but the fate of the precious collection hasn’t been clarified yet.

Above, a Pentateuch printed in Amsterdam, returned to the Jewish community of Rome during the post-war period.

Translated by Klara Mattiussi, revised by Margherita Francese, students at the Secondary School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.