In the 1800s the Latvian city of Riga developed a reputation for being culturally open which proved an appealing draw for many Jews who came to settle in the city. Throughout the 1800s the city’s Jewish population continued to grow and many prominent rabbis served the community of Riga at various points. The cultural openness of Riga continued into the early twentieth century and the Jewish population of the city continued to grow – there were over 40,000 Jews in Riga in the years after the end of the First World War. In Riga Jews had a vibrant culture with numerous political factions, religious groups, and cultural institutions existing side by side – and amongst such institutions were small scale pieces of Jewish life such as the Jewish Bookstore operated by Aaron Beker at 20 Herren Street. The onset of World War II brought Jewish life in Riga to a tragic halt. The occupation of the city by the Soviets, from June 1940 to June 1941, brought religious and political persecution; however, such injustices paled in comparison to the horrors wrought by the Nazis when they occupied Riga in July 1941. Many Jews were killed in the Rumbula Massacre, while others were forced into a ghetto, still others were deported to the Kaiserwald concentration camp. The records held by Yad Vashem note many individuals named Aaron Beker who were murdered during the Holocaust; the bookstore owner whose bookstamp is here pictured is likely amongst those victims.
This book stamp is from a book looted by the Nazis and sorted by Colonel Seymour Pomrenze, one of “the Monuments Men,” at the Offenbach Archival Depot.
There are two scrapbooks of archival markings from the books sorted at the Offenbach Depot in the Seymour Pomrenze Collection held by the American Jewish Historical Society (Call number P-933) There is a finding aid for the collection here
The digitized scrapbooks are available here
For more information on this project check the Center’s blog: 16thstreet.tumblr.com/tagged/Offenbach-Depot
Dr. Mitch Fraas, Acting Director of the Digital Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries' Special Collections Center is working on a similar project for the German book stamps based on NARA microfilm of the volumes the American Jewish Historical Society currently holds. See viewshare.org/views/mfraas/offenbach-bookplates/
The Center for Jewish History would like to acknowledge the following: The American Jewish Historical Society, who graciously allowed the use of their archival materials and digital content; Mitch Fraas, Acting Director of the Digital Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries' Special Collections Center, for his data and technical assistance in this project; David Rosenberg, Senior Manager for Communications, and Melanie Meyers, Senior Reference Services Librarian for Special Collections, for managing and creating the digital map; as well as Reference Services Librarian Zachary Loeb and Reference Services Assistant Ilya Slavutskiy for their work on translating and mapping.
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Center for Jewish History, NYC