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Werner Berthold (1921–2017) – In memoriam

Werner Berthold was born in 1921 in Auerbach in the Vogtland area of Germany. Soon after studying philosophy, literature and history at the University of Leipzig he embarked upon a career in the library field. In 1953 he gained his doctorate; the subject of his thesis was E.T.A. Hoffmann.

After holding positions at the Saxon State Library in Dresden and the German State Library in Berlin he worked at the German National Library from November 1957 to March 1984. From 1959 he headed the present-day German Exile Archive 1933-1945. Werner Berthold expanded the "Emigrantenbibliothek" ("Emigrant library") which had been established together with exiles in Switzerland in the late 1940s by Hanns W. Eppelsheimer, the first Director of the German Library, and laid the groundwork for the internationally recognised collection and research facility which the German Exile Archive 1933-1945 now represents.

His "Exilliteratur 1933-1945" ("Exile literature 1933-1945") exhibition which opened in 1965 gave significant impetus to the study of German-speaking exile in Germany. Stepping out from "the passivity of the librarian role [...] and presenting the material conspicuously to academics" was one of the exhibition's goals, explained Werner Berthold retrospectively. This was by no means self-evident at a time when the subjects of exile and emigration had scarcely been studied in the Federal Republic of Germany and were largely ignored.

Werner Berthold continued to stimulate exile research over the following years through further exhibitions, publications and his committee work. The German Exile Archive 1933-1945 was involved, for instance, in the joint cataloguing projects of the political and literary sources of German exile, and was represented by Werner Berthold in 1972 at the "2nd International Symposium on the Study of German-speaking Exile after 1933" in Copenhagen – important milestones in the history of exile research.

Even after his retirement Werner Berthold maintained close links to the German Exile Archive 1933-1945 of the German National Library, as shown by his many visits to the Archive and his attendance of Library events.

Werner Berthold died on 29 March 2017 in Frankfurt am Main. The German National Library, especially the German Exile Archive 1933-1945, will forever honour his memory.

Last update: 15.1.2018

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