Nazi loot in SLUB

After they came to power in the spring of 1933, the National Socialists immediately initiated measures to eliminate their adversaries. Everyone in political, racial, religious and ideological opposition to the regime was persecuted. In their thirteen-year reign of terror, Nazi rulers acquired a plethora of library material and other assets through robbery. Enemy literature was confiscated, destroyed or collected by NS bodies themselves and by selected academic libraries, usually the large regional and university libraries. This group of libraries also included the Saxon State Library Dresden, which was the predecessor of the Saxon State and University Library Dresden (SLUB).

In addition to allocations from state security authorities, books also reached the Saxon State Library from the Reichstauschstelle (Reich Exchange Centre), which distributed large stocks of stolen domestic and foreign books mainly during World War II, and from antiquarian book dealers.

German libraries had suffered great losses by the end of World War. II Like other libraries, the Saxon State Library (SLB) also endeavoured to supplement its missing stocks: with “abandoned” books and old holdings that ended up in collection centres or libraries at the end of the war and that were secured and further distributed by various institutions of the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) and the GDR. This included books that are now classified as NS loot.

Individual provenance research projects conducted by the SLUB focus on the identification, documentation and restitution of such unlawful acquisitions. It is therefore committed to acknowledging its own past within the most shameful period of German history.

The systematic investigation of their inventory forms the basis of the the loot projects conducted by the SLUB. Every single book that was acquired between the years 1933 and 1990 was taken into hand, examined closely, and the provenance features in it were documented. In total, around 320,000 books were examined in this way. They are the most important indicators in evaluating whether a book is a loot item or not. The books acquired by the SLB also contain indications that suggest that they are NS loot. There is a high probability that the books marked with the origin “Gestapo” or “Reichstauschstelle” are loot items. As indicated by recent research, this also applies to some books acquired from antiquarian book dealers. Moreover, many library records were destroyed during the destruction of the SLB premises in the Japanese Palace in the spring of 1945, making the in-house documentation of sources difficult.