A group representing Holocaust survivors and their descendants is calling for an investigation of possible fraud involving Save A Torah, the Rockville-based purveyor of Torah scrolls that purportedly had been rescued from the Shoah.

The request for a criminal inquiry ‹ filed last week by the New York-based American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants ‹ is the latest development in a controversy stemming from media disclosures that cast doubt on whether several of the Torah scrolls are in fact Holocaust remnants. Save A Torah, however, has denied any wrongdoing.

Attempts to reach Save A Torah’s co-founder, Rockville investment banker Rick Zitelman, by press time were unsuccessful. Zitelman’s partner, Silver Spring scribe and Judaica merchant Rabbi Menachem Youlus, said he could not comment on the matter without having read the request for an investigation sent by the survivors’ group.

The document ‹ written by historian and attorney Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering ‹ was e-mailed to the offices of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough.

In his missive, Rosensaft said the request for an official inquiry reflects “disturbing information” indicating that Save A Torah, a tax-exempt organization, may have raised charitable contributions based on “incredible and, in some instances, demonstrably false representations” regarding the origin of some of the Torahs scrolls.

The veracity of those accounts ‹ which were provided by Youlus ‹ was questioned in a Jan. 31 story in The Washington Post magazine.

Rosensaft, the son of survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, said in an interview last week with WJW that evidence of misrepresentation was drawn from the Post story as well as his independent investigation.

In one of the claims Rosensaft has disputed, Youlus said he discovered a Torah scroll in 2002 beneath the floorboards of a barracks at Bergen-Belsen. Rosensaft said his late mother had told him that she and other inmates helped burn down the barracks ‹ floorboards included ‹ and other buildings at Bergen-Belsen in May 1945 to combat a typhus epidemic. (That month, the British held a ceremonial burning of the last barracks, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.)

“I know for a fact that no barracks at Bergen-Belsen existed after May 1945,” he said, adding that he has visited the Bergen-Belsen site several times. “Any statement that he discovered anything, let alone a Torah, at the barracks at Bergen-Belsen is an absolute lie.”

In his letter outlining why a state investigation is warranted, Rosensaft also rejected other claims made by Youlus, including that he had recovered two Holocaust scrolls from a mass grave in western Ukraine and one from a cemetery adjacent to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

An independent report commissioned by Save A Torah determined that the Torah scrolls in question were kosher (ritually acceptable) and had been written in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe. But it concluded that it was impossible to confirm or disprove details Youlus had provided that purportedly showed they had survived the Nazis.

In a statement accompanying the report, which was released March 8, Zitelman said it had “found no evidence to contradict any information provided to the purchasers of his Torahs.”

In his interview last week, Rosensaft said he was “very offended” by the “so-called investigation” commissioned by Save A Torah. “The age or the kashrut of the scrolls was never an issue,” he added, maintaining that “there is not a single piece of evidence or a single witness to corroborate any of Youlus’ accounts.”

The American Gathering, which represents more than 80,000 survivors and their offspring, “is appalled that the memory of the Holocaust appears to have been falsified in order to enhance the marketability of the Torah scrolls that were sold or donated by Save A Torah,” Rosensaft said in his letter to the Maryland state officials.