Research into Nazi-confiscated cultural property in the library's collection
Since November 1999 a member of staff has been working to identify looted books in the library's collection. However the sketchiness of the inventories presented a considerable problem. In 2000 six looted volumes were discovered by accident during the preparation of an exhibition on forbidden literature during the Third Reich. They had been sent to Marburg University Library by the Landsratsamt Schlüchtern (Schlüchtern District Office) in 1935 as part of two deliveries totalling over 50 books. The six books were from the library of the Dreiturm soap factory in Schlüchtern and the private libraries of the brothers Max and Arnold Wolf. Max Wolf (1887-1948), the owner of the seized Dreiturm factory, emigrated to England in 1934 after suffering racial and political persecution. In November 2001 the Marburg University Library returned the six books to the Wolf family.
In late 2001 the library addressed the inventory issue and embarked on a systematic research project to scrutinise all acquisitions between 1933 and 1950, including acquisitions from antiquarians. The project is still running. The library has presented the project and intermediate results at the Hannover Symposium on looted books 'Jüdischer Buchbesitz als Beutegut' in November 2002 and at the Viennese symposium 'Looting and Restitution in Libraries' in April 2003.
One of the cases described in the presentation concerns a gift from a 'Prof. Benz, Stargard' of October 1940, which at first did not appear to be a questionable acquisition. However further research revealed that the books came from the libraries of several Polish properties. Prof. Benz, a theologian, declared that he found a depot during the Second World War containing books looted from Polish properties which were to be destroyed. After contacting the relevant authorities, Benz stated that he selected books he felt to be particularly valuable and sent them to Marburg University Library (according to the text, another set is said to have gone to the University Library in Halle). Although the book titles were not listed, the research project has so far been able to identify 41volumes. Few of these bear markings identifying the previous owner.
Other research results to date include the identification of a further 20 volumes from the Schlüchtern District Office consignments, including one book belonging to a former worker at the Dreiturm factory. When contacted, he did not wish the volume to be returned to him. The library was also able to identify volumes from other shipments whose senders, district offices, police stations and mayor's offices, indicate that they are likely to have been looted. By searching for and examining owners' stamps and ex libri, the library was able to identify some of the original owners, including union libraries, lending libraries and private individuals. The library emphasises that only in the fewest cases is it possible to provide proof that the books identified were indeed looted. To underline the difficulty in identifying looted volumes and the wrong assumptions sometimes made, the library's most recent research report mentions the case of a set of 'forbidden literature' sent to the library from the police headquarters in Kassel which turned out to have been part of the library of the police college of Hannoversch-Münden.
Marburg University Library is continuously entering its research results onto an in-house database and hopes that this will enable it in the near future to reply efficiently to specific enquiries regarding looted books in its collection. The library has taken an active role in encouraging other libraries in Germany to undertake research projects similar in scope. Information and articles on the project and the issue of looted books in general, are published on the library's website (in German only).
Research into cultural property missing from the library
No information is available
Dr. Bernd Reifenberg
Tel.: +49 (0)6421 2825101
Fax: +49 (0)6421 2826506
http://www.ub.uni-marburg.de/allg/aktiv/raubkunst.html (in German only)
Bernd Reifenberg, 'Eine wissenschaftliche Bibliothek als Sammelstelle für indizierte Literatur- zur Rückgabe von sechs Büchern an die Erben des deutsch-jüdischen Fabrikanten Max Wolf', in Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste (ed.), Beiträge öffentlicher Einrichtungen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland zum Umgang mit Kulturgütern aus ehemaligem jüdischen Besitz, Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, Magdeburg 2001, pp. 232-243. Text in German, Summary in English
< http://www.ub.uni-marburg.de/allg/aktiv/raubkunst_4.html >, accessed 15 July 2003.
Bernd Reifenberg, 'Die Ermittlung von NS-Raubgut in der Universitätsbibliothek Marburg. Ein Praxisbericht', Symposium: Jüdischer Buchbesitz als Beutegut, Hannover, 14 November 2002, < http://www.ub.uni-marburg.de/allg/aktiv/raubkunst_4.html >, accessed 15 July 2003.
R. Wernstedt et.al., 'Jüdischer Buchbesitz als Beutegut: NS-Kulturraub in deutschen Bibliotheken, Symposium im Niedersächsischen Landtag in Hannover 14.11.02', Bibliotheksdienst 37/1 (2003), < http://bibliotheksdienst.zlb.de/2003/03_01_09.pdf >, accessed 15 July 2003.
Marburg University Library, project page 'Die Suche nach NS-Raubgut in der Universitätsbibliothek Marburg' < http://www.ub.uni-marburg.de/allg/aktiv/raubkunst.html >, accessed 15 July 2003.