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Assyrian $10M relicū

Holocaust survivor's kin can keep $10M relic
Posted: 3:27 AM, April 6, 2010
The family of a Long Island Holocaust survivor can keep a $10 million ancient Assyrian gold tablet he received in exchange for a few packs of smokes on the streets of post-war Berlin, a judge has ruled.

Attorneys for Berlin's Vorderasiatisches Museum had argued that the family of Riven Flamenbaum should turn over the 3,200-year-old thumb-size artifact from the reign of Assyrian King Tukulti-Ninurta I because it was looted by Soviet troops.

But Nassau Surrogate John Riordan decided the museum waited too long to press its claim and the tablet -- worth an estimated $10 million -- is rightfully the property of Flamenbaum's three adult children.

Dennis Clark

RICH HISTORY: A judge ruled that a Long Island Holocaust survivor's family does not have to relinquish this gold Assyrian tablet.

"It is certainly understandable how the family would feel entitled [to keep the artifact] and offended by the efforts of the German government," said John Farinacci, an attorney for the Flamenbaum's estate.

"This was part of an immigrant's tale. It was one of the things he was able to get and put in his pocket to make a new life," he added.

Flamenbaum, a Pole and Auschwitz survivor, died at age 92 in 2003 in Great Neck. He left the tablet to his three children, Israel, Hannah and Helen.

The 9.5-gram solid-gold tablet sat in the ruins of an Iraq temple about 150 miles north of Baghdad until 1913 when German archeologist Walter Andrae unearthed it.

The next year, he shipped it to the Iraqi port city of Basra for transportation to Germany. But with the outbreak of World War I, the cargo freighter carrying the tablet was diverted to Portugal where the artifact remained until 1926.

It finally went on display at the Vorderasiatisches Museum in 1934, only to be put in storage five years later with the start of World War II.

Museum officials believe the tablet was looted by Soviet troops in 1945. Sometime later, Flamenbaum bartered black-market cigarettes for it, according to Steven Schlesinger, another attorney for the Flamenbaum estate.

In 1949, Flamenbaum emigrated to New York and began working at a Canal Street liquor store.

Within a few years, he'd pawned the tablet, along with rare coins, to purchase the liquor store, the attorney said. But he soon paid back the pawn broker and reclaimed the coins and tablet.

Throughout the years, the family had no idea how rare the artifact was -- at one point an appraiser said it was worth just $100.

Meanwhile, museum officials had all but forgotten the tablet existed and never placed it on its lists of stolen artifacts.

It wasn't until Israel Flamenbaum contacted the museum that the family learned its true value and the museum decided to sue to recover it.

The family has no intention of selling the tablet, according to their attorneys.



04/07/2010 8:21 PM

This Flamenbaum claimed to have been in Auschwitz. So, let's see. The Russians and then the Americans take control of Berlin. Looting occurs, of course. Mr. Flamenbaum miraculouslty appears on a street corner to trade "cigarets" for an ancient gold tablet. It's a highly suspicious, nay, highly preposterous claim. In any case, the tablet belongs to the people of Iraq, not some family in Great Neck, NY. This was far too important an issue to be decided by some 3rd rate judge in Suffolk County, NY.
David Aturaya, what planet are you living on? The tablet is in the possession of people in Great Neck, NY, NOT in a museum in Europe.

Annette Melikian

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