Moritz Güdemann

During the search for Nazi loot in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, also its holdings of Hebraica were checked for suspicious cases. Doing so, the title "Sheʾelot u-teshuvot (שאלות ותשובות)" by Moše Isserles (איסרלס, משה), was found, which contained clues in the form of two older stamps as to the previous owner and as to a prosecution-related confiscation. The first stamp points to the Rabbi Moritz Güdemann (1835 – 1918), while the second one indicates that the owner of the book during the NS regime was the "Reichsinstitut für die Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands" (Reich institute for the history of the new Germany).

Moritz Güdemann  (data set in the common authority file, GND)

Born in Hildesheim in 1835, Moritz Güdemann studied at the Jewish-theological seminary at Wroclaw until 1862 and worked as Rabbi in Madgeburg subsequently. Four years later, he was called to Vienna, where he assumed the position of Chief Rabbi as of 1892. In addition to his work as a Rabbi, Güdemann also authored several works on the history and culture of Judaism, as well as on anti-Semitism and apologetics. He died in Baden near Vienna in 1918.

In his last will, he bequeathed his belongings to his wife Ida and their three joint children, but excluded his library, since he had already made provisions in this regard during his lifetime. However, it does not emerge from the testament whom the library was bequeathed to. On the basis of already known donations by Güdemann it has to be assumed that he gave his specialist library to a cultural institution in the surroundings of the Jewish community of Vienna of the time. Presumably, this institution was the Israelitisch-Theologische Lehranstalt Wien (Israelite-theological academy of Vienna), of which he had been a co-founder.

Immediately after the "annexation" of Austria in 1938, the Gestapo, which reported directly to the Reich Main Security Office, and the Security Service of the Reichsführer SS (SD) started seizing and looting Jewish libraries. The further use of these libraries by the National Socialists is documented only in part. The clues contained in the book as to the "Reichsinstitut" in Munich permit further conclusions with respect to the book's fate, though. Both the Austrian National Library and the book exploitation center in Vienna – the "Bücherverwertungsstelle", an institution of the Reich propaganda office for pooling, destroying and redistributing "undesirable" literature – offered to give confiscated books to the Reich institute.

Founded in 1935, the "Reichsinstitut für die Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands" had declared it its mission to become the leading institution in the pseudo-scholarly research of the "Jewish question" in Nazi Germany. Part of this mission was also the establishment of a corresponding specialist library, for which looted books were used as well. The holdings of the "Forschungsabteilung Judenfrage" (research division Jewish question) set up in Munich as of 1936 were seized by the American armed forces at the end of the war and were later put at the disposal of the occupying force's broadcasting station Radio München for a time. Starting in 1948, these holdings were handed over to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

After the conclusion of the research, which was carried out with the aid of the Division of Restitution Affairs of the Israelite Community of Vienna, the book could be restituted to the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (Israelite community of Vienna) on 3 September 2015.

The title continues to be shown in BSB DISCOVER!.
Since the Israelite community of Vienna has permitted digitization, a digital copy of the book is accessible online.

Moše Isserles: She'elot u-teshuvot  (digital version)

Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien