Provenance Research:

Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky (Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library, Hamburg)



Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky (Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library, Hamburg)

Known as Bibliothek der Hansestadt Hamburg (Library of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg) between the mid-1930s and 1945.

Research into Nazi-confiscated cultural property in the library's collection
The library has undertaken research into its collections on the basis of the 'Joint Declaration'of February 2001, focussing on acquisitions between 1940 and 1944. The results were published in Otto-Ernst Krawehl's article 'Erwerbungen der "Bibliothek der Hansestadt Hamburg" aus ehemals jüdischem Besitz (1940 bis 1944)' (Acquisitions by the 'Library of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg' of formerly Jewish property). A copy of the article is available from the Central Registry upon request.

The library's accession books include several entries listed as gifts from the Gestapo. The first such entry on 10 July 1940 is for 301 volumes identified as the "Bibliothek Heckscher" (Heckscher Library). The library has so far been unable to find out more about this collection. Further gifts from the Gestapo followed between late October 1941 and March 1942 and amount to a total of 2,354 volumes. A further 351 volumes mentioning the Gestapo as the source were recorded on 3 February 1944. In January 1941, the library received 92 items of Hebraica. They were sent by the National Library in Vienna.


In late 1943, the then Library of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg acquired the library of Dr. Leo Lippmann (851 volumes) from the Hamburg Bailiff's Office for RM 6,325. In 1952, the heirs received compensation of 4,000 DM and waived any further claim to the books. In 1943, the Hamburg State Archives (Staatsarchiv Hamburg) handed the library a collection of manuscripts from the collection of Jacob Löwenberg. Following a 1963 agreement between the library and the heirs, the library paid compensation of 2,000 DM and the books remained in its collection. Following an offer from the Hamburg Bailiff's Office in 1942, library staff inspected the collection of Hermann Kiewy still located in the apartment of his widow, Ida Kiewy, who had been deported to Theresienstadt two weeks earlier. The library acquired 116 items from the collection in August 1942. It is now known that the manuscripts in the Kiewy collection were taken to the Soviet Union in 1946 from the library's storage location at Lauenstein castle (Saxony). In 1959, the heirs of Hermann Kiewy were paid 5,000 DM compensation. At the time, all those involved believed the collection to be lost. In July 1943 the Gestapo handed the then Library of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg staff 100 boxes containing the library of the Jewish Community of Hamburg, previously earmarked for destruction. The library was immediately placed into wartime storage and not inventoried. It was returned to the Jewish Community of Hamburg in 1957.


Krawehl writes that the Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library, Hamburg, has also found evidence of acquisitions of possibly looted material from third parties such as the Altona municipal library, the Hamburg book halls (Hamburger Bücherhallen) and specialist dealers (for instance: 150 handwritten documents to Dr. Meier Spanier from various persons, especially Detlev Liliencron and Gustav Falke, were purchased from the Berlin dealer Stargardt in 1941).

Eighty percent of the library's collection was destroyed during the Second World War and it is very likely that this included some looted materials.


The main resources available to the library for its research were its accession books and its archives. Krawehl stresses however, that many of the looted books were not inventoried. Many of these non-inventoried items that remained in the library 1945 were inventoried in the immediate post-war years and 'can be identified through the catalogue and borrowed'. Approximately 900 volumes were handed to the Hamburg Jewish Community in 1951 to be held in trust; c. 800 Hebraica volumes were handed to the Institute for the History of the German Jews on permanent loan in 1974 and a further 500 in 1999. Krawehl comments that it is possible that individual items may still be found in the very small remaining collection of 'uncatalogued old stock'.


The Carl von Ossietzky State and University Library has undertaken targeted examinations of presumably looted books remaining in its collection, but with little success. Names found include, for an acquisition date of 1940: Werner Schiff; Rabbi Dr. Bick, Frankfurt am Main; Renate Spiegel; Rabbi Dr. Heinrich A. Cohn, Basel and Berlin; Rabbi Dr. A. Loewenthal, Hamburg. For an acquisition date of February 1944, the names identified include: Jakob Löwenberg; Alfred Heymann (several); Gerd Lazarus; Dr. Fritz M. Warburg (private library); Synagogengemeinde Stettin; Dr. Leo Lippmann (several, presumably split from the collection); Maria May Reiss; Helene Weinheim.


Research into cultural property missing from the library
More than 80 percent of the library's collections were destroyed in the Second World War.


Contact Information
Prof. Dr. Peter Rau (Director)
Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky
Von-Melle-Park 3
20146 Hamburg
Tel.: + 49 (0)40 428 38 2213
Fax: + 49 (0)40 428 38 3352


Central Registry Archives, Correspondence, 7 October 2002.

Otto-Ernst Krawehl, 'Erwerbungen der "Bibliothek der Hansestadt Hamburg'" aus ehemals jüdischem Besitz (1940 bis 1944)' in: Auskunft - Mitteilungsblatt Hamburger Bibliotheken, 22/1 (March 2002), pp. 3-17 (Acquisitions by the 'Library of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg' of formerly Jewish property).

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