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An ancient Torah scroll (illustrative).

A senior Hungarian rabbi said Tuesday he has found 103 Torah scrolls that were stolen from Hungarian Jews in World War II and hidden in a Russian library in Novgorod, east of Moscow.

Russia has not decided what to do with the holy scrolls, which Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation Chief Rabbi Shlomo Koves wants to restore for Jews in Hungary. The Nazi death machine exterminated more than half a million Jews from Hungary, virtually destroying most Jewish communities outside of Budapest.

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It was previously known that Russia had stored more than 100 religious texts, some of them more than 500 years old, in the library. Rabbi Koves discovered the Torah scrolls during research at the Novgorod library.

He told a press conference on Tuesday that signs showing the origin of the scrolls have been removed but that he is certain they were stolen from synagogues in Hungary.

“I think it’s the first time in history when such a large collection of Judaica with 100 Torah scrolls in one place was discovered,” Rabbi Koves said. “For seven decades they have been laying naked in those archives, while their only value is for a Jewish community to see them and use them every day.

“And the fact that those scrolls are from Hungary has a special significance this year, which is the 70th year from 1944 when most Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. For us, finding these Torah scrolls that were connected to our forefathers has a great significance of showing continuity in this community.”

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