Jewish community given back books stolen by Nazis

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 22:02

Berlin: Recently rediscovered books
plundered by the Nazis more than six decades ago were returned
to Berlin`s Jewish community on Wednesday in a ceremony at the city`s
landmark synagogue.

The Berlin Central and Regional Library formally
handed over 10 books and three journal volumes discovered
among more than 200,000 volumes being examined by researchers
as part of a project to establish their origin, with a focus
on restitution.

One of the books is from noted author Gotthold Ephraim
Lessing and dates back to 1890. There is also a travel guide
to Palestine from 1934 and a book on Jewish history "from the
destruction of the First Temple to the present," that was
published in 1913. All are in German.

Though experts say none of the books have significant
monetary value, they offer a sobering glimpse of the country`s
history.

"It`s the ordinariness of these books that remind us
of the horrible reality of the persecution of the Jews during
the Nazi era", Germany`s top official for cultural affairs,
Bernd Neumann, said at the ceremony at Berlin`s New Synagogue.

Lala Suesskind, the head of Berlin`s Jewish community,
said "this hand-over reminds us all that injustice never loses
significance over time."

Jewish households, community centers and schools were
routinely looted by the Nazis and thousands of books were
burned. Some, however, were spared and archive records show
that more than 40,000 looted books were sold to the Berlin
Central and Regional Library in 1943.

But, finding them is like searching for a needle in a
haystack, the researchers say.

"We are happy every time we can give books back to the
rightful owner," historian Peter Proelssz from the library
said. "But there are still 200,000 books with unknown origin
to go through. In the past year, we`ve gone through 25,000,"
Proelssz said.

When identifying the owners, the researchers look for
certain clues: sometimes a stamp on the first page, sometimes
just a number.

For example, inside one of the books recently
discovered, "The Jewish Youth Calendar," a faint stamp can
still be made out that reads: "Belongs to the religious school
of the Jewish Community."

The German federal government distributes $1.4 million
annual to restitution projects across the country.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 22:02

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