Tracing the private archive of Rabbi Yoseph Yitzhak Schneerson
The history of the Second World War is full of stories of cultural treasures being looted, confiscated, and lost — and only in rare cases recovered. These are stories not only of paintings and sculptures, but also of book collections and archives, as was the case of many Jewish collections. The fate of the Schneerson private archive is not as widely known as that of the Schneerson library, the famous collection torn apart by the Russian revolution in 1917. However, the fate of the archive is another typical World War II-era story of spoils of war seized by Soviet troops in 1940s Europe. Such collections were generally of no use to the Soviet authorities, so they were buried — made virtually inaccessible to the public or to scholars — in state repositories for decades.