HUMANITY & INHUMANITY, Unprecedented Auction links Holocaust with Civil Rights Movement at the Historic Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York City

Thursday, September 19,

Wednesday, September 18, 12pm - 7pm
Thursday, September 19, 12pm - 7:30pm
(or by appointment)
Fifth Avenue Synagogue
5 East 62nd St, Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065
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The Eugene B. Sloan Civil Rights Collection

Martin Luther King addressing audience at County Hall in Charleston on July 30, 1967

A collection celebrating the life and work of respected South Carolina reporter Eugene B Sloan, known for his coverage of the nation's formative Civil Rights Era, as well as his love of his state and its government, history, and natural beauty. Honored posthumously by the South Carolina TriCentennial Commission with a historic marker placed at his childhood home in Clinton, SC, as well as with the first Ambrose E Gonzales Award for Distinguished Journalism, Sloan - always armed with his Sony tape recorder - is remembered for capturing various key moments during the fraught struggle for Civil Rights in the South.

Esau Jenkins and Dr. Martin Lurther KingIncluded in the collection is a truly singular audio piece: a recording never before heard in its entirety of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King addressing an audience at County Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 30, 1967, less than a year before his death. Though spent from weeks on the road addressing crowds, the Reverend speaks eloquently of the injustices of wealth distribution and white supremacy plaguing the nation, subjects that are once again timely in the United States. "Racial injustice," Dr. King says, is still the black man's burden and the white man's shame. So wherever we live in America, you have to face the fact honestly that racial discrimination is present." This is also the speech in which Dr. King famously instructs his crowd to "build, baby, build" rather than burn (that is, riot). Martin Luther King's address in its entirety runs nearly 30 minutes, with a 20-minute introduction from Civil Rights pioneer Esau Jenkins and his granddaughter, Jakki Jefferson resulting in a 50-minute historic recording. Other than Sloan's tapes, there exists no recording of this address before its final three minutes (from which the phrase "build, baby, build" is pulled), which had been captured by a local television station.

Eugene B. Sloan around 1967Sloan's tape of the Martin Luther King address will come in conjunction with the original Sony tape recorder that was used to tape it, as well as with other significant recordings, one of which was taken undercover during a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan the evening before the address, during which Grand Dragon Scoggin can be heard calling for Dr. King's assassination and bemoaning his upcoming visit and address. The third recording is of a later date, taken on March 31, 1969, during the Hospital Workers' Strike, also in Charleston. The rally began when more than 400 African American hospital workers, the vast majority of whom were female, pitted themselves against the all-white administrations of the Medical College Hospital and Charleston County Hospital. Moved by this display, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, who followed Dr. King as the President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after his death, delivered this address at a rally held at the Fourth Baptist Church. In it, he speaks both of the urgent need for these workers' rights, as well as the daunting task of stepping in to fill Dr. King's shoes (though Abernathy does joke that he has "some sandals of his own.")

The Abernathy recording runs around 45 minutes on either side, and the KKK meeting is just under 14 minutes in length. Also included is an original photograph of Martin Luther King, taken before his address and later developed by Sloan himself for use by the press in accompanying the news story he'd written. While the rest of the photos included in this lot are not original, they are copies of other photos taken by Sloan of the event and of Dr. King himself, whose originals were later donated to the archives at the University of South Carolina. Sloan's Hasselblad camera, on which he captured the originals of all included photos, will accompany them in the lot.

Further expanding the lot are articles of clothing from the Sloan family (Sloan's trademark white button-up, like the one he would have worn as captured any one of these recordings, pressed shortly before his death and never again worn, as well as a dress worn by his daughter Laura at his funeral), a South Carolina TriCentennial Commission button given out when the historic marker was placed at the Sloan family home, and the framed Ambrose E Gonzales Award that Sloan received after his death.

Here are sample audio clips of the Martin Luther King recording:

“Racial injustice is still the black man’s burden and the white man’s shame.
So wherever we live in America, you have to face the fact honestly
that racial discrimination is present. So don’t get complacent;
certainly we’ve made some strides. We’ve made some progress here and there,
but it hasn’t been enough; it hasn’t been fast enough,
and although we’ve come a long, long way, we still have a long, long way to go.’’

“In 1863 the Negro was freed from the bondage of physical slavery
through the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln,
but the Negro was never given any land to make that freedom meaningful.
And you know, it’s something like having a man in jail for years
and then you suddenly discover that this man is innocent and go to him and say,
now you are free. You don’t give him any bus fare to get to town,
no money to buy clothes, no money to get something to eat.
This is what happened to the black man in this country.’’

Sample audio clip of Klux Klux Klan recording:

“Bang! That’s what happened, the first shell. You see what’s happening over there
tonight and tomorrow. This great Christian, Martin Luther C**n.
He’s… I’ll betcha they’ll say tomorrow that he has 8,000 n*ggers, 8,000 n*ggers.
Now them n*ggers know all about the devil. Now this might be the last time that
Martin Luther King ever comes to Charleston. He’s got to go to Charleston, South Carolina.
He’s banished from going to Kingstree. He can’t go to Albany, Georgia.

He’s come for one purpose - for the money. He come for the money.
That’s what he come for, and to sew his poisonous seeds.
For God help that n*gger; he ought to be shot.’’

“Voices of Independence”

Ben-Gurion at the Israeli's Provisional Council

This lot contains a historic collection of documents that outline the future of the new Israeli State as envisioned by the 37 members of its Provisional Council - the Moetzet Haam - at the time of the establishment of the Independent State of Israel on Friday, May 14, 1948. Formed to establish an independent Jewish State, each of the council's 35 men and two women eventually signed the scroll that would act as the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Some shared, some individual, the ideas put forth in these individual documents are those that shaped and that continue to shape the Israeli State, as written by the men and women who declared their independence in 1948. Included are original, signed statements and letters from all 37 signers, among them David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the newly-formed State and the man who first read the Declaration aloud from hand-written notes at a secret meeting held at the Tel Aviv Museum (now known as Independence Hall), as well as Golda Meir, one of only two women to sign the scroll. (Later in life, she also served as Israel's fourth Prime Minister.)

Golda Meir signing the scroll, 1948Signer Rachel Cohen (Kagan) - Israeli activist and politician, newly-appointed Director of the Social Department of the Jewish National Council, and the second woman to sign the scroll - may have best expressed council's feelings regarding such a tumultuous time of political change and uncertainty in her statement: "I feel awkward in our changing world, when humanity is about to take over space and the entire universe - it is difficult to describe what it will be, the image of the generation to come. Will they be interested in what we're talking about? Will they live under the same conditions, the same regime, that we are today?"

This statement remains in its original Hebrew, as do the words of Moshe Sharett (chosen as the State's second Prime Minister after David Ben-Gurion's retirement from politics in 1954) in his expression of the vital importance of preserving a record of these events. "I wish all future generations to know and be infused with the recognition of the events that preceded the establishment of the State, and which also led to its establishment," he writes. "It is first and foremost the centuries of Jewish exile and all the suffering and bitterness and humiliation and tears of blood and blood." Of the roughly 125 pages of documents, about 100 were recorded in Hebrew.

Other documents have been written in English (and some others still in both English and Hebrew). First Prime Minister Ben-Gurion's statement that he "supported the idea of the establishment of an independent Jewish State as far back as 1936" is one of these. Though Ben-Gurion had been a champion of the independent State for more than a decade, the scroll went through three drafts before being accepted and signed, with Ben-Gurion himself sitting on the committee responsible for the third and final draft. This final accepted draft was not typed until after its approval on May 14, when it was to be broadcast as the first live transmission of State's new radio station in an event kept secret until the transmission began. Its arrival at the Tel Aviv Museum (the location of the broadcast) only one minute prior to the start of the address meant that Ben-Gurion, after his years of dedication, was not able to deliver the Declaration from the scroll itself at all, but instead had to rely on the committee's handwritten notes.

Marc Chagall Holocaust Letters

Marc Chagall Holocaust Letters

A collection of remarkable letters written by Early Modernist artist Marc Chagall during and after the Holocaust, accompanied by a rare self-portrait of Chagall. The letters, alternatively signed "Marc Chagall" and the "Chagalls," are of correspondence between the Chagalls and Gen. Morris C. Troper and Mrs. Ethel Troper, both eminent figures of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee who were instrumental in helping the Chagalls immigrate to the United States in 1941. A majority of the letters date from this time period, May - August 1941, when Marc and Bella Chagall were immigrating from occupied Europe to the United States. Other letters date from 1953 and 1962 and speak to both births and deaths in the Chagall and Troper families once the Chagalls have returned to Paris after the war. In total, the collection includes 12 documents, comprised of six handwritten letters, two handwritten postcards, six typed letters, and a pair of addressed envelopes, mostly written in German with some in French and English. Full English translations are available upon request.

The letters indicate how reliant Chagall and his wife, both living in Paris, France at the time when the Holocaust broke out and having newly escaped to the United States, remained on Morris Troper and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in navigating their new lives in New York (where they initially had their mail channeled through the Museum of Modern Art). Upon their arrival, the Chagalls did not yet speak English, so the Tropers help was vital. Of special concern to them was their daughter, Ida, who remained trapped in Europe without the paperwork needed to emigrate. Eventually, Ida and her husband would join the Chagalls in America, after a harrowing voyage on the refugee ship the SS Navemar, secured with Troper's help.

Additionally included is a book of Chagall's work, entitled "Peintures 1942-1945." A gift to General Troper and his wife, the book has been decorated with a rare hand-painted self-portrait of Marc Chagall on the inside front cover. The simple self-portrait has been executed in watercolor and pen-and-ink and is found alongside an autographed inscription to the Tropers on the opposite side that reads: "Pour General et Mrs. Troper, Amicalement, Marc Chagall. Vence, 1951." It also contains an introduction by Paul Eluard, with a poem by Leon Degand, and is comprised of six pages of text and 12 plates with color reproductions of paintings laid onto sheets, loose as issued. Original color-pictorial portfolio, 11" x 15." Torn at spine.

Known as one of the quintessential Jewish artists of the 20th Century, Marc Chagall's escape from WWII France made him one of the last great European Jewish Modernist painters to survive the Nazi campaign against modern art (considered dangerously "intellectual" and "socialist"). Though his style evolved throughout his life, leading Chagall to experiment with Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism, among other artistic styles, he remained first and foremost a Jewish artist, his work influenced by his young life as part of a devout Lithuanian Hassidic family in Vitebisk (then part of the Russian Empire and later destroyed by the Nazis, to Chagall's distress). Chagall also had a great love for New York City, where he found a small but vibrant Yiddish-speaking community of other Jewish artists who had also escaped Europe, though he eventually returned to Paris, where he spent the post-war years until his death in 1985.

Krumbach Torah Ark

The Krumback Torah Ark

Krumbach ArkAs World War II in Europe was coming to a close, US, Russian and the troops of the other Allied nations entered the Nazi death camps, freeing those who had miraculously survived. In their terribly weakened condition, these survivors had nowhere to return to, their towns and villages having been destroyed in the War. Instead, many were moved to Displaced Persons camps where they received humane treatment while beginning on their long road to recovery.

One such Displaced Persons Camp was placed in the Bavarian village of Krumbach, Germany. Krumbach, located in the Swabian region between the Danube and the Austrian Alps, was a small town with a bustling Jewish population prior to the rise of the Third Reich. With its first written mention in 1156, the village had a long history as a place where Jews who had been pushed to the margins of society could explore feelings of growing self-confidence and acceptance. This was especially true during the 18th Century, as permanent synagogues in distinctive styles began to dot the surrounding region with more fervor than anywhere else in Germany. Sadly, all these newly erected synagogues would be desecrated and destroyed the night of Kristallnacht, as the Nazi Party rose to power, leaving the region in shambles and Krumbach all but abandoned.

Today, the Krumbach Displaced Persons Camp that housed so many survivors of the Holocaust has led the way for a resurgence in population. Though much of the area was destroyed during the reign of the Third Reich, Krumbach is once again home to almost 13,000 people, many of them Jewish citizens proud to have taken part in the rebuilding of their villages and synagogues.

A group of children at Foehrenwald, displaced persons camp, gather around a US soldierFor those first survivors returned to Krumbach, too, nothing was more important than the freedom to congregate and celebrate their Judaism. Leading the way was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Rubin, a survivor of Auschwitz, who spearheaded the drive to create a yeshiva and a synagogue. Recognizing the plight of these devastated people, members of the US Army Corps of Engineers thoughtfully crafted a Torah Ark, known in Hebrew as an Aron Kodesh. Highly regarded for erecting bridges and building roadways in times of war, the Corps crafted a wooden Ark to hold a sacred Torah. The importance of such an object cannot be overstated as it gave Holocaust survivors a symbol of hope.

In the late 1940s, Rabbi Rubin, his family and many members of the Krumbach congregation were able to immigrate to the United States and found sanctuary in Brooklyn. With the aid of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Rabbi Rubin and his wife, Rebbetzin Chana Rubin, departed from Bremerhaven, Germany aboard the SS Marine Flasher on April 19, 1948, arriving in New York on April 29, 1948, traveling over the Passover holiday. The SS Marine Flasher was a ship operating under President Truman’s 1945 directive on immigration, which advocated for the migration of displaced persons and refugees in Europe to resettle in the United States. Truman had signed the directive on December 22, 1945, thereby giving preference to victims of the Nazi Holocaust when filling immigration quotas for the coming year.

Holocaust survivors aboard the SS Marine Flasher leaving Bremerhaven for New YorkPrior, in the years following World War I, the United States had enacted unforgiving immigration laws that designated quotas for immigrants by national origins, with a preference for immigrants from northern and western Europe. These quotas favored gentile and white immigrants, but as World War II broke out, the United States received hundreds of thousands of applications from Jewish refugees. This lead to the refusal of many Jewish people who sought to escape the rising tensions in Europe. It was in the War’s aftermath that President Truman ordered immigration quotas be designated for these displaced persons. In his directive, President Truman wrote the following:

To the extent that our present immigration laws permit, everything possible should be done at once to facilitate the entrance of some of these displaced persons and refugees into the United States. In this way we may do something to relieve human misery, and set an example to the other countries of the world which are able to receive some of these war sufferers.

Truman’s humanitarian ideas were incongruent with American public opinion at the time, which skewed toward limiting quotas in the postwar period. When the executive order was put into action, a Gallup Poll showed that 95% of Americans surveyed did not want to change immigration laws and indeed preferred immigrants from Scandinavian countries. One of the factors contributing to this anxiety around immigration was a familiar one: the possibility that the robust wartime economy would slow, resulting in an economic downturn and jeopardizing job security, with immigrants taking jobs away from returning soldiers. Still, despite this opposition, Truman’s directive ushered in 400,000 displaced persons by 1952, two of them being the Rubins.

Akin to the US and the Allied powers’ efforts to alleviate the suffering of survivors in Europe through the construction of displaced persons camps and important significant artifacts such as the Torah Ark, Truman’s directive further tells the story of how the United States worked to aid those who were persecuted in an effort to alleviate human misery. In a material way, the ark serves as a symbol encapsulating a history of American - Germany history in the post-war era.

Ark's plaqueIn their passage from Bremerhaven to New York, during Truman’s Directive, the Rubins were permitted to bring the Krumbach Torah Ark with them and before long, the Ark was placed in its American home, Rabbi Rubin’s new synagogue, Congregation and Yeshiva Yeshurun on Ocean Parkway in Flatbush. Rebbetzin Chana Rubin, the Rabbi’s wife, movingly detailed this saga of survival and rebuilding in her book The “Final Solution” is Life.

The Ark is 98” tall, 68” wide and deep enough to hold a Torah. Above its doors is a plaque with the following Hebrew inscription: “After the decree of killing that God brought about on European Jewry, (survivors) gathered together at displacement camps in Krumbach, Germany. A yeshiva was established for the survivors by the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Rubin and this Aron Kodesh was made and used by the yeshiva and synagogue.”

The Holocaust-related Krumbach Torah Ark has, for more than a decade, been an important and historic artifact within Brooklyn’s Living Torah Museum. However, a dispute has arisen as to whether the consignor of the Ark has the right to sell it without meeting certain conditions. While the disputing parties are trying to resolve their differences, absent resolution, Guernsey’s has decided to withdraw the Ark from the auction. However, the auction will be proceeding with the other important lots being sold at the September 19 event. Inasmuch as all parties very much want the Torah Ark to find a meaningful and permanent new home in a setting where the Holocaust will not be forgotten, any parties potentially interested in acquiring the Ark are urged to contact Guernsey’s regarding a sale that would be agreed to by all parties.

Guernsey’s remains committed to handling the buying and selling of historical items with care, which includes the participation in processes associated with establishing correct ownership of all lots in every auction they conduct. If you are interested in discussing a possible private sale, please call Guernsey’s at 212-794-2280 for further information.

Other Items of Note

Also present will be an archive of personal correspondence, papers, and photos from Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan, close friend of David Ben-Gurion and symbol of strength for the emerging Israeli State, all dating between 1938 - 1969.

Please contact Guernsey’s at 212-794-2280 if you have an item related to the Holocaust and or Civil Rights Era that you would like to discuss.

Online Bidding

Those who are interested in participating can view the catalogue online, and leave advance absentee bids, as well as bid live as the sale is taking place at


Interested bidders should also review the Terms & Conditions, as well as the Bidder Agreement form, and the Absentee Bid form.