The Russian government continues to hold on to the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe’s seized collection of ancient books and manuscripts, but it is now making them available for public viewing on the web.
from the Times of Israel:
In 1922, a few years before he fled the Soviet Union, the sixth Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson petitioned the Russian government to return 35 crates of books they had seized years earlier.
The books had been passed down to his father, Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneerson, by his grandfather and had belonged collectively to generations of Lubavitch Hasidim going back to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, who began the collection in the 18th century.
There was an illustrated haggadah, published in 1712 in Amsterdam, its pages stained by wine that was spilled at Passover seders hundreds of years ago. There was a book printed in 1552 in Venice, not long after the printing press was invented, with a handwritten inscription in cursive Hebrew reminiscent of Arabic. There was a Torah from 1631, with comments in Latin, written in pencil by Christian scholars who had studied the Jewish holy book.
The Soviet government did not return the books, and for almost a century they remained on the shelves of the Lenin public library in Moscow. But this month the Russian State Library will finish scanning and putting online the more than 4,500 books in the Schneerson Collection, making them accessible to everyone in the world at the click of a mouse.
“We have about 10 to 20 books left to scan. They’ll be on the site in a month,” said Svetlana Khvostova, the Russian State Library employee in charge of the Schneerson Collection at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.