Provenance research at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has been examining the provenances of its holdings with respect to NS loot in a targeted manner since 2003. The library is working in line with the Common Declaration of the federal state, the Länder and the umbrella organisations of local authorities to find and return cultural goods dispossessed due to persecution by the NS regime, in particular from Jewish ownership, which implements the Washington Principles of December 1998. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is also one of the founding members of the Research Association for Provenance Research in Bavaria (Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung Bayern, FPB), which was established in 2015 at the initiative of the Bavarian Ministry of Education and Culture, Science and the Arts. The association provides a network and exchange platform for state-run institutions active in the field of provenance research.
So far, around 65,000 volumes acquired by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek between 1933 and 1945 have been verified. It is suspected that around one percent of the verified books were disowned or looted in the time of the national socialist regime. The consecutive intensive research on the individual titles and their rightful owners has been concluded largely.
Currently, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is examining the acquisitions of Latin manuscripts and music materials between 1933 and 1945, as well as around 36,000 volumes from the NS education center Sonthofen, which were transferred to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek by the US military government after 1945. Random tests have shown that they also include NS loot, which – besides from Jewish owners – had been taken also from trade unions or Free Masons’ lodges.
The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek wants to return cultural goods disowned in the course of persecution by the NS regime to the claimants or their heirs and legal successors and to find a "just and equitable solution" for these cases. The short film shows the process of a book restitution including the prior scholarly research on the basis of a concrete example.
Virtual exhibition (in German)
The search for Nazi looted assets at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
Image credit header image:
Professor Dr. Rudolf Cohen [third from the left] in the presence of friends and staff members of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek working on the project NS loot on the occasion of the restitution on 13 March 2018 | © BSB/T. Dimitriadis