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Provenance Research

Objective

The German National Library is systematically searching its holdings for items looted by the Nazis.
The volumes found will be listed as such in the catalogue. Ideally, they will then be restored to the heirs of their rightful owners.
The first items to be checked will be the serial titles and publication series that were not catalogued as deposit copies or specimen copies after 1933. Records in accession books or extension cards are not sufficient in this case. Around 199,500 volumes will have to be examined during this phase.
Monograph accession books (mainly from 1940-1945) that have not yet been subjected to review will be investigated at the same time. Any indication that the accessions recorded were neither deposit copies nor specimen copies must be checked against the item in question. Although the Deutsche Bücherei of the time mainly relied on deposit copies and voluntary donations to build up its collection, it is known that there were other ways of supplementing stocks, closing gaps, or procuring replacements. In 1938/1939, the head of the accessions department at that time was requested by the Reich Ministry of Propaganda to set up a book collection and distribution centre (Bücherverwertungsstelle) in Vienna. This organisation arranged the systematic plundering of Jewish publishing houses, bookshops and private libraries, and distributed the looted books to libraries and museums in Germany. To date, 500 volumes have been identified as having been obtained by the German Library from this source.
The provenance information found can then be used as the basis for further research into the owners and their legal heirs. In doing so, the German National Library will make every effort to restore their property quickly.
Some restitutions are already being prepared. The information on ownership was documented in a previous project.

Project duration

2. January 2018 – 31. December 2020

Further information

The German National Library is guided by the "Common Declaration" on the recovery and return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, particularly Jewish property, an obligation undertaken by all public institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1999.

The Lost Art Database contains data on cultural property which was removed and relocated, stored or seized from its owners, particularly Jews, as a result of persecution under the Nazi dictatorship and the events of World War II. The database is maintained by the German Lost Art Foundation. The German National Library has already recorded just under 600 findings in the Lost Art Database. These will be continuously updated.

Last update: 26.03.2019

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