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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 29, July 17, 2011, Article 27

A BIBLIOPHILE'S NIGHTMARE: BAGHDAD'S JEWISH ARCHIVE

The picture below is non-numismatic, but heartbreaking to a bibliophile. Fortunately the damaged trove was rescued and restoration is beginning. -Editor

Iraq Jewish Heritage

A trove of Jewish books and other materials, rescued from a sewage-filled Baghdad basement during the 2003 invasion, is now caught up in a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Iraq.

Ranging from a medieval religious book to children's Hebrew primers, from photos to Torah cases, the collection is testimony to a once vibrant Jewish community in Baghdad. Their present-day context is the relationship, fraught with distrust, between postwar Iraq and its Jewish diaspora.

Discovered in a basement used by Saddam Hussein's secret police, the collection was sent to the U.S. for safekeeping and restoration, and sat at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Maryland until last year, when Iraqi officials started a campaign to get it back.

Initially contacts went well, but now the deputy culture minister, Taher Naser al-Hmood, says "The Americans are not serious" about setting a deadline for getting back the archive.

U.S. officials deny that they are delaying its return. They say they only recently got the roughly $3 million needed to clean up the materials the whole point of bringing them to the U.S. and they question the rush to return the collection now, when the goal is so close.

"It is not U.S. government material, and we have every intention of returning it," said Phil Frayne, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

"We understand the frustration over the delay but we're happy that this is going to finally move forward," he said.

To read the complete article, see: Tug-of-War Over Iraqi Jewish Trove of Books and Other Materials in United States Hands (www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=48979)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.

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