Gabriele Rosenthal

Returned Nazi loot: First edition of Friedrich Schiller’s "Wilhelm Tell", 1805 | © BSB
Returned Nazi loot: First edition of Friedrich Schiller’s "Wilhelm Tell", 1805 | © BSB
Index card from the Rosenthal library recording the first edition of Friedrich Schiller’s "Wilhelm Tell" | © BSB
Index card from the Rosenthal library recording the first edition of Friedrich Schiller’s "Wilhelm Tell" | © BSB

Between November 1938 and February 1939, the Gestapo Munich confiscated the art collection of 69 Jewish citizens. Among the victims was Gabriele Rosenthal (1887 – 1942), whose apartment on Leopoldstraße 24 was ransacked on 24 November 1938. Among other things, the widow of a merchant lost her valuable library.

130 books went to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, a transaction confirmed in writing by the acquisition department to the Gestapo on 8 February 1939. The then members of staff were not only aware that the books had been confiscated but also knew whose property they were. As has been revealed in the course of the Nazi-loot research conducted at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, the volumes from the library of Gabriele Rosenthal constituted, without exception, bibliophile treasures that included numerous precious single editions.

Gabriele Rosenthal chose to stay in Germany to care for her diseased son. In 1942, she was deported to the Piaski Ghetto, where she was murdered. That same year, her son was killed at the death camp Sobibor.

As prescribed by the legislation concerning restitution that was issued by the American military government, in May 1948 the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek informed the central registration office in Bad Nauheim that the library had received books confiscated in 1939 from Gabriele Rosenthal into its collections. On 23 January 1953, it returned 98 titles, in part bound in several single volumes, to Rosenthal’s sister Henny Siegel.

Since the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek had begun to search its collections in 2003 systematically for Nazi loot, two volumes formerly in the library of Gabriele Rosenthal were discovered: a first edition of Schiller's "Wilhelm Tell" as well as an early edition of Maupassant's "Mademoiselle Fifi" with the author’s personal dedication. They were found with the help of preserved index cards from the Rosenthal library, which Gabriele Rosenthal’s nephew, Uri Siegel, had put at the disposal of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. As his family's representative, Uri Siegel (b. 1922) took delivery of the two books from Director General Rolf Griebel on 6 March 2006.

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