Report from the 1999 Nijhoff Study Grant Recipient


by Richard Hacken

WESS Newsletter

Spring 2000, Vol. 23, no. 2

Association of College & Research Libraries
© American Library Association

In New Orleans last summer I told you a little about my Nijhoff grant research plans, having to do with the Jewish library collections of Vienna and their fate during and after the Second World War.  Last October I made the trip to Vienna, which seemed like the right place to study the Jewish library collections of Vienna.  And that proved to be true insofar as the archival documentation goes, but I also learned that the majority of the surviving books are now in Jerusalem at the "Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People."   Whether there were any surviving books from before the war was one of the questions I had which was answered in the positive.  Just to indicate a few findings: many texts of the Jewish Theological Seminary in the Second District were discovered and 80% saved in 1943 by a young University of Vienna student who is now seventy-nine years old and whom I was able to interview.  In the Austrian State Archives, among other things, I was able to zero in on the folder containing a letter of November 2, 1938, one week before the Kristallnacht, from a bureaucrat Dr. Kühne to a certain H. Drum, Adjutant to the Reichskommisar for Reunification of Austria with the German Reich where three attachments are listed regarding the confiscation of "literature inimical to the movement": (1) the letter to the Gauleiter; (2) the memo about the value of the material to be confiscated; and (3) a draft of the orders.  You can imagine my dismay (even though it was October) to find that the attachments were not attached.  This letter was also the only one within the binder that was not bound.  I cannot speculate on where the attachments were at that time, any more that I can speculate on the missing 17 minutes of Watergate tapes, but this part of the story did end happily, after some discussions with the very helpful workers in the Archive.

It turns out that the librarian sent as an expert to administer the Evaluation Center for Confiscated Books in Vienna (which was directly across the street  -- Dorotheergasse -- from where the Jewish Museum is now located), the same librarian who ultimately sold many of the titles at cut-rate prices to academic and other libraries in the Reich, had been the head of the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig. This Dr. Paust (that was his name -- Paust with a "P")  was apparently not shy about sending titles to his own institution and getting involved in other Paustian bargains.
Relevant research has come to my attention that quotes archival sources in Leipzig and Jerusalem, so I may not need to see those items with my own eyes.

The book-confiscation topic is still with us and relevant.  You may have heard about, or read, the recent article in the Washington Post (that is, early in this millennium), which, in Washington Post-modern nuances, suggests that certain books in LC and other collections may have been "looted from Jewish homes, libraries, or synagogues by the Nazis," and were shipped to this country by US military intelligence from 1946 to 1949 in an effort to fill gaps in holdings of German imprints from the World War II period.

Obviously, I haven't decided yet whether to write up my findings as an article dealing with library history or as a full-blown espionage novel.

Many thanks are once again expressed to Martinus Nijhoff International for their assistance in this research, without which the crucial ground-zero examinations could not have happened.
Richard Hacken
European Studies Bibliographer
Brigham Young University

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