Unlawfully Acquired Books from Jewish Ownership 

 

 

Unlawfully acquired books from Jewish ownership by the Berliner Stadtbibliothek in 1943, registered in Zugangsbuch J (accession book J) 

 

Zugangsbuch J (accession book J, 1944–45), Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin 

 

William Wordsworth, The Poetical Works of Wordsworth (London, [et al.]: Warne, 1891), Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin 

 

Eugen Fröhner, Lehrbuch der gerichtlichen Tierheilkunde (Textbook on Forensic Veterinary Medicine, Berlin: Schoetz, 1915), Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin 

 

Evacuation of the library of the Rothschild family by the staff of Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, Paris (1940), Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich 

 

Text by Sebastian Finsterwalder, Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin

Translation from German by Alicia Reuter 

 

 

Provenance Research at the Berlin Central and City State Library

 

What is today the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (ZLB, Berlin Central and City State Library) consists of the Berliner Stadtbibliothek (Berlin City Library), founded in 1901, the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek (American Memorial Library), built in West Berlin in 1954, and the Senatsbibliothek (Senate Library). Books looted during the Nazi era entered the ZLB’s inventory through various and not yet fully established routes. The task of ZLB researchers of Nazi looting is to examine suspected inventory, identify looted books, and investigate their origins—with the aim of returning them to their rightful owners or heirs, or, if this is not possible, find so-called fair and just solutions.

 

The research, begun in 2010, has thus far concentrated on the inventory of the Berliner Stadtbibliothek. The Bergungsstelle für wissenschaftliche Bibliotheken (Recovery Point for Academic Libraries) documents the 1943 purchase of about 40,000 volumes from the apartments of deported Berlin Jews as well as consignments from the post-war period. These contained over 20,000 “gifts” comprised of Nazi plunder. Sampling has shown that the inventories of all three departmental libraries contain looted books.

 

The ZLB publishes information and illustrations online on the cooperative database Looted Cultural Assets (LCA) on all books, provenance attributes, people, or institutions examined during provenance research.

 

 

Accession Book J

 

In 1943, the Berliner Stadtbibliothek (Berlin City Library) requested the free transfer of about 40,000 books from the “private libraries of evacuated Jews” from the Berlin Stadtkammer (City Chamber). However, the city did not want to provide the books for “free.” They were, according to the Stadtkammer, the property of “enemies of the state” which had fallen to the Reich and should therefore “serve the promotion of all purposes connected to the solution of the Jewish question.” The correspondence between the Stadtbibliothek, the mayor of the Reich’s capital Berlin, and the Pfandleihanstalt (Public Pawn Office) show that the parties involved were aware of the books’ provenance.

 

The books were finally acquired by the Stadtbibliothek for 45,000 Reichsmark and brought to the library. A total of 1,920 book titles were entered into a separate accession book and given inventory numbers beginning with J. Books with this accession number can be unequivocally identified as Nazi loot, independently of any further distinguishing marks. Only about ten percent of these books contain traces that might lead to the owners of the looted goods.

 

The allocation of call numbers in accession book J took place after the end of the war. Corresponding provenances substantiate that the books not entered with a J call number were gradually transferred into the inventory as “gifts” in the years that followed.

 

The books presented on the shelf are all registered in accession book J. The accession number and usually also the call number are indicated on the white and grey inset labels. The orange notes mark those books that have obvious evidence of a personal provenance.

 

Two case studies—books from the possession of Ludwig Simon and Gertrude Wütow—illustrate the search for heirs undertaken by the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin.

 

 

Gertrude Wütow

 

The book William Wordsworth, The Poetical Works of Wordsworth (London [et al.]: Warne, 1891), is registered in accession book J under number 1261. It was incorporated in the inventory of the Berliner Stadtbibliothek under the signature Cq 1555. On the title page, a dedication reads: “Gertrude Wütow from her loving Friends Emily, Edith & [Harry R…] November 1892.”

 

The book was a part of the acquisition from the Pfandleihanstalt (Public Pawn Office). Other than the dedication, the only attributes that can be found in the book trace it back to the Berliner Stadtbibliothek and the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (call number, stamp, inventory number, “not for loan” label, etc.).

 

In accession book J there is yet another volume with provenance features attributable to Gertrude Wütow. Registered under accession number 1542 with the signature Cq 1593 is the book Robert Burns, The Poetical Works of Robert Burns (London [et al.]: Warne, 1888) containing a handwritten note: “Received from my dear grandparents on 26.3.1891. G. Wütow.”

 

The identity of Gertrude Wütow has not been entirely clarified; possibly it is Gertrude Hirschweh, née Wütow, born on March 26, 1874, in Berlin. In support of this contention is the fact that the book was looted from a Berlin apartment and the name Gertrude Wütow, as well as the name Gertrude Hirschweh, not only appears several times in common sources (address books, in a memorial book, and at the Yad Vashem memorial) but also always refers to the same person.

 

On September 9, 1895, Gertrude Wütow married the pharmacy owner Hermann Hirschweh (born on June 16, 1865 in Jedwabno, East Prussia). Gertrude and Hermann Wütow had a daughter, Hertha Johanna, born on June 11, 1896, and possibly at least one other child, Dorothea Hirschweh Beerman. Gertrude Hirschweh was deported to the Riga Ghetto on January 13, 1942; no further information has yet been found on her fate thereafter. To date, no information has been found regarding potential heirs.

 

 

Ludwig Simon

 

The book Eugene Fröhner, Lehrbuch der gerichtlichen Tierheilkunde (Textbook on Forensic Veterinary Medicine, Berlin: Schoetz, 1915), is registered in accession book J under number 939. It was incorporated under the signature Ko 481 d in the inventory of the Berliner Stadtbibliothek. On the title page, there is a faintly legible stamp: “Dr. Ludwig Simon [Tierarzt] [Berlin], 43 Linienstr. 6.”

 

The book was a part of the acquisition from the Pfandleihanstalt (Public Pawn Office). Other than the dedication, the only attributes that can be found in the book trace it back to the Berliner Stadtbibliothek and the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (call number, stamp, inventory number, “not for loan” label, etc.).

 

Veterinarian Dr. Liepmann Ludwig Simon was born on December 20, 1877, in Schönfließ, Brandenburg and died in 1956 in New York. Ludwig Simon, his wife Mrs. Irma Simon, and their son, Fritz Simon, survived the Shoah in hiding. Although it has been possible to learn a great deal about Ludwig Simon and his family, thus far it has not been possible to find heirs. Irma Simon died in 1999 in Berlin; research into Fritz Simon, born around 1923, has thus far delivered no findings.