Sefer ha-Shorashim ha-Mekhuneh Sefat Emet (The Book of Roots) (1803) by Isaac Satanow has an incredible history. It is one of six volumes, looted by Nazis from the Prague Religious Jewish Community Library during World War II, that were recently discovered in the UCLA Library. Three of the looted volumes were tracked down by curators of the Jewish Museum in Prague via searches in HathiTrust. Once UCLA librarians were alerted to the existence of these volumes in their collection, they conducted their own research and found three additional volumes. All six volumes were repatriated back to the Jewish Museum in Prague in a ceremony this May, led by UCLA University Librarian Ginny Steel.
In conjunction with its return of Judaica items to the Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP), the UCLA Library’s International & Area Studies Department hosted an online symposium, Contested Collections: Grappling With History and Forging Pathways for Repatriation, which featured international experts and discussions of the complex issues related to decolonization in libraries, archives, and museums.
The UCLA Library has created excellent resources to tell the story of how these books came to be in the UCLA Library, and how and why they were repatriated back to Prague:
- 05/12/22 article: UCLA Newsroom: Digitization, open access and the internet aid UCLA’s return of books looted by Nazis: Repatriation of Judaica texts serves as catalyst for UCLA Library-hosted symposium
- UCLA Library Digital Exhibition: Rediscovered and Repatriated: UCLA Library’s Return of Nazi-looted Books
- Interactive Timeline of the discovery and repatriation
- 13 minute video presentation by UCLA Librarian Diane Mizrachi: Discovery and Recovery: Uncovering Nazi Looted Books in the UCLA Library and Repatriation Effort
- 1 hour & 45 minute video of conference presentation: Returning Home: Reclaiming Nazi-Looted Jewish Materials
Browse the featured volume here (right to left) or click to see it in HathiTrust: