Geca Kon

The case of the Jewish Serbian publisher Geca Kon (1873 – 1941) illustrates that the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek also profited from confiscations in the countries occupied by the Wehrmacht. Kon was the most important publishing bookseller of Yugoslavia and overall South-Eastern Europe in the time between the two world wars. His publishing profile included predominantly functional literature, but also numerous translations into Serbian, among them works by Macchiavelli, Freud or Marx. After Germany's attack on Yugoslavia, Kon became one of the National Socialists' first victims. Like his complete family, he lost his life in the spring of 1941. Geca Kon's publishing house in the heart of Belgrade was finally "arianized" in 1942. The ownership of the bookshop changed several times, but it still exists today and Geca Kon is commemorated on its premises.

Geca Kon  (entry in the Deutsche Biographie)

Kon's distributing warehouse was looted subsequently under the lead of Hermann Gerstner (1903 – 1993), who by civilian profession was a librarian of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and who had assumed the position of director of the main army library in Belgrade in February 1942. He organised the removal of five copies each of every work form Geca Kon's publishing house in close cooperation with the then directors of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Rudolf Buttmann, and of the Austrian National Library, Paul Heigl. The books were sent to Vienna as a "donation" by the commander-in-chief in Serbia, and forwarded from there to a total of five libraries. In addition to Munich, the looted books were thus also distributed to the libraries in Berlin, Leipzig and Wroclaw.

Paul Heigl  (entry in the Deutsche Biographie)
Hermann Gerstner  (entry in the Deutsche Biographie)
Rudolf Buttmann

The around 600 titles sent to Munich were incorporated into the holdings of the Staatsbibliothek as of the end of 1942. Due to the donor numbers "G.n. 17006" entered in the books at the time – standing for the commander-in-chief in Serbia – they were uniquely identifiable decades later. By means of transport lists obtained, a total of 203 additional titles forming part of the works looted from the publishing house could be ascertained at the Staatsbibliothek. Around two thirds of the books brought to Munich at the time were lost due to the war, however.

No heirs could be ascertained for Geca Kon. It was consequently decided to give the books to the Serbian National Library. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek thus followed the example of the University Library of Leipzig, which had given its holdings stolen from Kon to the National Library in 2011. On 7 April 2016 – one day after the German Wehrmacht had attacked the Kingdom of Yugoslavia 75 years ago without declaration of war and had destroyed the Serbian National Library and its holdings in their entirety in an air raid – Director General Dr. Klaus Ceynowa handed the books to Laslo Blašković, the Director General of the National Library in Belgrade.

Serbian National Library
University Library Leipzig

The restituted titles continue to be shown in BSB DISCOVER!.
Digital copies are accessible online for a small part of the holdings. Those publications which are still protected by copyright are searchable, but not accessible online.