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Hebrew Bible Looted by Nazis Returned to Jewish Community

A 16th century Hebrew Bible looted by the Nazis six decades ago was returned to Vienna's Jewish community Monday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials turned over the two-volume Bible to two Austrian emissaries during a repatriation ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan.

Published in Venice in 1516-17, the Bible once was part of the well-known medieval manuscripts collection of S.H. Halberstam, officials said. In 1908, it was donated to the Vienna Jewish community library.

In 1938, during the annexation of Austria, Nazi soldiers confiscated the Bible in a seizure of the Jewish community's library, and the Bible later wound up in Berlin.

It was illegally imported into the United States in March, authorities said.

In June, New York auction house Kestenbaum & Co., which specializes in rare books, offered the Bible for sale, according to immigration officials and federal prosecutors. An investigation by immigration officials concluded that it belonged to the library.

The auctioneer had been unaware of its history and withdrew it from the sale.

The Bible includes an Aramaic summary and a series of commentaries by medieval rabbinic figures from the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th centuries.

It was given to Ariel Muzicant, president of Vienna's Jewish community, and Ernst-Peter Brezovsky, Austrian consul-general.