American Friends of the Anna Amalia Library:
an Update

By Ronald D. Patkus

WESS Newsletter
Spring 2005
Vol. 28, no. 2

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The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany is one of the world's great cultural treasures. Founded in 1691, it holds over a million books and significant rare book and manuscript collections, including medieval manuscripts, Martin Luther's Bible, the world's largest collection of Goethe's Faust, and other treasures. It has been named a UNESCO world heritage site.

On September 2, 2004 the library suffered a terrible fire, and approximately 50,000 books were lost. Another 62,000 books were damaged by smoke and water. German Culture Minister Christina Weiss has said, "The literary memory of Germany has suffered severe damage. A piece of the world's cultural heritage has been lost forever."1

In the wake of the fire, the federal government of Germany pledged 4 million Euros in support of rebuilding and restoration. In addition, the library has been supported by many other organizations and individuals inside Germany who have donated funds, gifts in kind, and services. Many gifts have also been made from outside of Germany.

From the very beginning Americans have showed their support for the library. In the first days following the fire, the “American Friends of the Anna Amalia Library” was formed for the purpose of showing a clear and coordinated expression of support. On the governmental level, Ambassador Daniel R. Coats of the United States Embassy in Germany presented a cash donation of $10,000 in early October for the reconstruction of the library. Private individuals have forwarded funds on their own.

Several calls for donations to the “American Friends” were made to professional library, archival, and German Studies mailing lists. A webpage was created, linked from the Duchess Anna Amalia Library's own page. Some direct calls were made to German cultural organizations in the United States. Finally, the “American Friends” worked with other people and organizations that were interested in raising funds. For instance, a benefit concert was held at Oakland University in Rochester, Minnesota, and the funds collected were forwarded to the “American Friends.”

To date, approximately $7,000 has been received. The bulk of these donations arrived in the first weeks after the fire, but others were sent in the early part of 2005. The donations have come from all around the United States, in varying amounts. Most of the donors are attached to academic institutions, but cultural organizations and private individuals are also represented. In December Michael Knoche (the director of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library) and I wrote a thank you letter to all who had donated.

All of the funds collected are being forwarded to the library in Weimar for the specific purpose of restoring books damaged in the September fire. It is hoped that the small gift of the “American Friends” will stand as a testament to the concern of Americans for the great institution that is the Duchess Anna Amalia Library. The work of planning and collecting funds has also forged many new ties between the United States and Germany.

More information on the American Friends can be found at:

Donations can be sent to:

American Friends of the Anna Amalia Library
c/o Ronald D. Patkus
Vassar College Box 20
124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604.
1. Kirsten Grieshaber. “Literary Treasures Lost in Fire at German Library,” New York Times, September 4, 2004, page B9.

Editor: Sarah G. Wenzel

Association of College & Research Libraries
©American Library Association

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