Testimony of exile history - Suitcase of author Walter Meckauer (1889-1966) to be preserved
A suitcase containing stories, observations and reports written by author Walter Meckauer is to undergo full conservation treatment and thus be retained for posterity. The preservation of this outstanding document of an exiled artist is to be conducted as a model project by the Coordination Office for the Preservation of the Written Cultural Heritage (Koordinierungsstelle für die Erhaltung des schriftlichen Kulturguts, KEK) with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien, BKM) and the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder, KSL). The historical luggage item has been in the possession of the German Exile Archive 1933-1945 of the German National Library since 2014.
“I love that little old suitcase. [...] I've known it since I was a child. The old brown case has been all over the world. It was a constant companion, wherever we went [...].“ (Brigitte Meckauer-Kralovitz, daughter of Walter Meckauer: The Suitcase, typescript, German Exile Archive 1933-1945)
Prior to the assumption of power by the National Socialists, Walter Meckauer worked as an author in addition to serving as a dramatic adviser at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. He was a collector who meticulously recorded his impressions and experiences in short stories, and kept them in a generously-sized suitcase. He thus created a special archive – a source of inspiration and income at the same time. When Meckauer was obliged to emigrate following the National Socialist takeover, this suitcase accompanied him to his exile stations in Switzerland, Italy, France, Switzerland again and finally America. The journey has taken its toll on the suitcase and the collection of manuscripts. The paper is also acidic, yellowed and brittle. The conservation treatment is aimed at repairing the damage while preserving the overall appearance of the case and its contents, including all signs of wear.
As a member of the Alliance for the Preservation of the Written Cultural Heritage (Allianz Schriftliches Kulturgut Erhalten), the German National Library is pursuing the goals of protecting the endangered originals of Germany’s rich cultural and scientific heritage, and of anchoring this heritage in the public awareness as a national task.
First held in remembrance of the fire at the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar in 2004, the next national day of action for the preservation of our written heritage is to take place in Cologne on 5 September 2015.
For over a century now the German National Library has been collecting, documenting, archiving and making publicly available all written publications and sound recordings issued in Germany, or in German, since 1913. In addition the German National Library also houses valuable and extensive special collections in the German Exile Archive 1933-1945 and the German Museum of Books and Writing.
The German Exile Archive 1933–1945 is located at the Frankfurt site of the German National Library. It is tasked with collecting all books and brochures published abroad by German-speaking emigrants between 1933 and 1945. Its holdings include exile journals and the literary estates of German-speaking emigrants, as well as the archives of exile organisations.
In order to preserve the media publications in the long-term and make them available to the general public, the German National Library practises preventive conservation. This includes systematically analysing the objects, ensuring their optimum storage, safeguarding information and taking appropriate measures for the conservation of media publications.