The Chabad-Lubavitch movement is urging the US court to impose civil fines on Russia for failing to heed a court order mandating that it return to the organization books, manuscripts, and other documents belonging to the founders of the movement and other Russian Jews.
Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court has said that the religious works – some as old as 500 years old – belong to Chabad-Lubavitch and are unlawfully in the possession of the Russian State Library and the Russian military archive, and ordered the institutions to give up the items in 2010.
Among the items are a whopping 12,000 religious books and manuscripts seized by authorities during the Bolshevik revolution and the Russian Civil War as well as 25,000 pages of handwritten chassidic and Jewish teachings and writings of religious leaders confiscated by the Nazis during World War II, then commandeered by the Soviet Red Army as spoils of war to the Russian State Military Archive.
Russia has not recognized the authority of the US court and is refusing to give up the artifacts, saying they are important to Russian national heritage.
The Justice Department on Wednesday rejected pleas to impose civil fines, saying the move would probably hurt the effort to obtain the desired outcome.
Russia has stopped all loans of art for exhibit in the United States, fearing the items may be seized as part of the dispute.