NS-Provenance Research and Restitutions at the UCL
Academic libraries under National Socialism
During the National Socialist era, academic libraries were often depot libraries for confiscated library materials from closed organisations, associations, schools and other institutions. In addition to the confiscated forbidden literature, the libraries were also supplied with books from expropriations as well as books from private persons who were forced to sell them in order to survive. However, the tracing and recognition of these mostly individual books, especially from private libraries, is rather rare due to the rarely existing acquisition files of that time and the mostly missing ownership records.
Requirements for NS-Provenence Research at the UCL
The inventory of the USCLCologne probably contains books of all above mentioned access types. In addition, there are holdings from NS organizations that were dissolved after the war. Exact numbers cannot be given at this time. The books acquired at that time were generally incorporated into the inventory, i.e. they were included in the corresponding classification system and thus became part of the library's inventory. How can one identify the works concerned? The most obvious possibility, the inspection of the access books, is no longer possible in the UCL Cologne. The accession journals and acquisition files have been lost as a result of the war. Thus, the systematic verification instrument to identify suspicious suppliers is missing. Books that were only inventoried after the war can be traced in the access books. However, since antiquarian acquisitions are still being made today, this means that a search would have to be made through all journals up to the present day. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that UCL Cologne owns an extensive stock of books which could only be inventoried in the 1980s. Among them were books that came into the UCL between 1942 and 1945. Due to the lack of exact knowledge about the circumstances of acquisition at that time, these books were inventoried as "gifts". Another difficulty is to prove the provenance on the basis of the books themselves. In many cases it was necessary to rebind the books. Often the characteristics of the previous owners were not preserved. Since it is impossible to analyse the holdings of the USB from 1938 onwards by autopsy, the few finds are random findings. The books found so far do not come from private property, but from the possession of organizations that were banned and disbanded by the Nazis.
It is proven that UCLCologne purchased the private library of Elise and Helene Richter from Vienna. In the years 2005-2008, the processing of this library was the main focus of the NS-Provenance Research at the UCL Cologne: Virtuelle Bibliothek Elise and Helene Richter
The research results of the investigation, reconstruction and documentation of the library of the Jewish Viennese philologists Elise and Helene Richter were presented in January 2009 in the book publication "Bücherspuren" and a large exhibition of the same name.
The books from the library of Elise and Helene Richter as well as all other finds, which are probably Nazi looted property, were reported to the Lost Art Database of the German Lost Art Foundation.
November 2014 - Restitution of the Richter Library
What had seemed impossible for years could finally be realized: the restitution of the books of Elise and Helene Richter, which are in the UCL Cologne. Thanks to the professional support of the historian Dr. Max Bloch it was possible to establish contact with the heirs of the Vienna Sisters living in England. In this particular case of restitution to a total of three heirs, the UCL has sought advice from the University's legal department. In agreement with the heirs it was decided to provide financial compensation. For this purpose, the torso of the former Richter Library located in the UCL was examined and evaluated by a sworn appraiser. The approximately 550 linguistic books will thus remain at the university for teaching and research purposes. The heirs assessed the restitution as "to be a fair and just solution relating to the matter of the Nazi confiscation of their library".
Hoffrath, Christiane: Bücherspuren – das Schicksal von Elise und Helene Richter und ihrer Bibliothek im "Dritten Reich",
2. durchgesehene und ergänzte Auflage, Köln 2010, 225 S., ISBN 978-3-412-20651-2, € 39,90
Crossland, David: Germans pay for Nazi library
In:The Times Europe, Berlin, (Online-Version) 26.11.2015
Kiepels, Sandra: Universität gibt Raubgut zurück: Kölner Bibliothek profitierte vom NS-Regime - Langwierige Suche nach den Erben
In: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 24.11.2015, S. 19 (Druckversion)
Online-Version u.d.T.: Universität Köln gibt Nazi-Raubgut zurück, 24.11.2015
2014, July - Returned to the grandson of Bruno Marwitz
[Book plate of Bruno Marwitz]
Bruno Marwitz (16.6.1870-23.11.1939) was a Jewish lawyer who was admitted to the Berlin Regional Court for more than 40 years. In addition, Marwitz wrote jurisprudential works, including fundamental commentaries on German copyright law. In 1933, the National Socialists initially removed him from the notary's office, before he was banned from practising as a notary in 1938. The book collector and bibliophile was excluded from the bibliophile associations in Germany as one of the so-called "lawyers without right". Bruno Marwitz died in Berlin in 1939. His widow Helene, née Pniower (1875-1942) was arrested in 1942 during an escape attempt at the Swiss border and deported. She was murdered immediately after her arrival in the Riga concentration camp.
The book "Les Amours du Chevalier de Faublas" by Louvet de Couvray, vol. 3, Paris: Tardieu, 1821 with the ex-libris of Bruno Marwitz was brought to the UCL Cologne as a gift. Unfortunately the donor is not known. We restituted the book to the grandson of Bruno and Helene Marwitz, Dan (Daniel) Marwitz in Haifa, Israel.
Due to the investigations of the UCL it is also possible for the libraries of the Freie Universität Berlin and the University Library Munich to restitute the books from the library of Bruno Marwitz that are available there.
Restitutions from 2009-2013
2013, October - returned to Franciscan monastery Vossenack
We have returned the book "Ferdinand Doelle: Das St. Johannis-Hospital in Bonn: Festschrift zu seinem 75jährigen Bestehen 1849-1924. Bonn: Verl. des Johannishospitals, 1924" to the Franciscan monastery at Vossenack in Hürtgenwald. The volume shows the ownership stamp of the Franciscan monastery on the Kreuzberg in Bonn, which existed until 1968. The book was inventoried in the UCL in 1941. How it got into the Cologne library is unclear. In contact with the Vossenack monastery, it could not be clearly established whether the Bonn branch was abolished during the Nazi period. Presumably, however, the library was unprotected because the Franciscan monks had been drafted into the military. The inclusion of the book in the UCL's holdings suggests that it was "Nazi looted property".
2013, August - UCL Cologne restitutes books to the Jewish Community of Berlin
[Entrance to the Jewish Community Center in Berlin.]
We were recently able to return two Montaigne volumes to the library of the Jewish Community in Berlin. These are volumes three and four of the edition: Michel de Montaigne: Essais, Paris: Didot, 1802. The books came from the library of the German-Israeli Community Federation (D.I.G.B.), founded in Leipzig in 1869, which was banned by the National Socialists in 1933.
Despite the attempt to make the ownership stamps on the title pages of the volumes unrecognizable by etching, the stamp of the donor to the D.I.G.B. could be deciphered in addition to the library stamp. The donor is Ernst Josef Marcus from Burgsteinfurt, whose household goods and art possessions were auctioned off in Cologne in 1936 together with the possessions of Dr. Albert Goette from Burgsteinfurt.
The cap manufacturer Marcus (born 22.08.1895) emigrated with his family to Amsterdam on 14 June 1937. His mother (?) Dora Marcus, née Weingarten (b. 09.09.1874) was murdered in Auschwitz on October 5, 1942. (Memorial Book - Victims of the Persecution of the Jews under National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933-1945. Koblenz: Federal Archives, 1986).
We acquired the two volumes (volumes 1 and 2 are missing) in 1955 as parts of a purchased private collection.
Today, the library of the Jewish Community Center collects the remains of the libraries of Jewish private individuals, institutions and companies, even beyond Berlin. Thus, many books have been returned to the library in recent years, most of which came from private ownership. The two Montaigne volumes from Cologne have so far traveled the longest distance to Berlin.
Before being returned, the books were digitized so that they are still available as e-books via the UCL catalog.
2012 - Restitution of books to the library of the Steyler Missionaries in Sankt Augustin
On 14 December 2012 we were able to return four books to the librarian of the library of the Steyler Mission in St. Augustin. The volumes from the mission library had been inventoried as "gifts" in the UCL in 1942 and 1943. The entire monastery property was confiscated by the Gestapo in 1941. The following year, the Chief Finance President of Cologne asked the USB management to contact the Gestapo office in Bonn to inspect the library. When the Cologne librarians arrived, however, they found only remnants of the library that had already been removed. It is not known how many volumes in total were taken over into the USB's stock.
Further information in: Christiane Hoffrath: Bibliotheksdirektor im Nationalsozialismus. Hermann Corsten und die Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek Köln. Cologne: UCL, 2012.
2011 - Petition of the participants of the IV Hanover Symposium "NS-Raubgut in Bibliotheken, Museen und Archiven".
From May 9 to 11, 2011, more than 100 librarians, museum experts, archivists, and scholars from a wide range of disciplines gathered at the invitation of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library, the Lower Saxony State Museum Hanover, and the Bergen-Belsen Foundation for the IV Hanover Symposium on "Nazi Looted Property in Museums, Libraries, and Archives."
The participants decided to address an "Open Letter" to Mr. Neumann, Minister of State for Culture, and the Lower Saxony Ministries of Science and Kultru Ms. Wanka to emphasize the strengthening and further establishment of provenance research.
2009 - UCL Cologne restitutes confiscated trade union books
[Stolen - Lost - Rediscovered]
In 2009, we were able to restitute for the first time cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution. The two volumes originally belonged to the Free Trade Unions of Cologne. On May 2, 1933, houses of the Free Trade Unions throughout Germany were raided and robbed by the National Socialists. The Volkshaus, headquarters of Cologne's Free Trade Unions on Severinstrasse, was not spared either. The once large library was destroyed. Two copies - the only ones so far - were discovered in our house. On behalf of the University of Cologne and with the consent of the City of Cologne, we returned these volumes to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation as the legal successor of the former trade unions.
When the two volumes were handed over on September 1, 2009, the Senior Library Director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Dr. Rüdiger Zimmermann, gave the lecture: "Geraubt, Verbracht, Gerettet. The fate of workers' and trade union libraries after 1933". The ceremony was accompanied by an exhibition on the topic, which will be on display until mid-October.
Kölner Stadtanzeiger, September 2, 2009
Contact person for NS provenance research and restitution at the UCL: