Nazi-Looted Books among the Antiquarian Acquisitions of the Herzog August Bibliothek since 1969

Funding area:
Nazi-looted cultural property
Funding recipient:
Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel
Federal state:
Lower Saxony
Contact person:
Dr. Johannes Mangei

Christine Rüth

Type of project:
long-term project

The Herzog August Bibliothek is an independent research institute specializing in the study of European cultural history in the medieval and early modern period. It holds important collections of manuscripts and early printed books as well as a comprehensive stock of modern research literature. In numerous digitization, cataloging, and research projects, the holdings are explored and made accessible to the public.

Amongst the various holdings of the Herzog August Bibliothek, cases of Nazis-looted property have come to light only in isolated instances in the past. The current project aims to take a structured approach while focusing on one aspect in particular the antiquarian acquisitions that, to date, have not been researched extensively. Two large groups of books, the vast majority of which were acquired from antiquarian bookshops and auctions ‒ often at a time when so-called redistributed loot was still thought to be of little importance nationally and internationally will be examined. As a result, we hope to determine how many of the objects that were confiscated (or sold) because of Nazi persecution are contained in these collections and through which routes they may have reached the Herzog August Bibliothek.

Therefore, the project intends to systematically record and investigate the provenance of approximately 30,000 volumes that have been added either as individual acquisitions or as part of closed collections of older literature to the librarys holdings since 1969. The important role played by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Sammlung Deutscher Drucke, as part of which the Herzog August Bibliothek has been responsible for the acquisition of 17th-century German prints since 1990, will also be considered. Initial samples from the collection suggest a small number of clear cases of Nazi-looted property, the identification of which requires special effort however, due to the separation of the original collections and the long possession history that is to be reconstructed. In the end, we aim to find just and fair solutions for as many objects as possible.

(c) Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel