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The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance

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For readers of The Monuments Men and The Hare with Amber Eyes, the story of the Nazis' systematic pillaging of Europe's libraries, and the small team of heroic librarians now working to return the stolen books to their rightful owners. While the Nazi party was being condemned by much of the world for burning books, they were already hard at work perpetrating an even great For readers of The Monuments Men and The Hare with Amber Eyes, the story of the Nazis' systematic pillaging of Europe's libraries, and the small team of heroic librarians now working to return the stolen books to their rightful owners. While the Nazi party was being condemned by much of the world for burning books, they were already hard at work perpetrating an even greater literary crime. Through extensive new research that included records saved by the Monuments Men themselves—Anders Rydell tells the untold story of Nazi book theft, as he himself joins the effort to return the stolen books. When the Nazi soldiers ransacked Europe’s libraries and bookshops, large and small, the books they stole were not burned. Instead, the Nazis began to compile a library of their own that they could use to wage an intellectual war on literature and history. In this secret war, the libraries of Jews, Communists, Liberal politicians, LGBT activists, Catholics, Freemasons, and many other opposition groups were appropriated for Nazi research, and used as an intellectual weapon against their owners. But when the war was over, most of the books were never returned. Instead many found their way into the public library system, where they remain to this day. Now, Rydell finds himself entrusted with one of these stolen volumes, setting out to return it to its rightful owner. It was passed to him by the small team of heroic librarians who have begun the monumental task of combing through Berlin’s public libraries to identify the looted books and reunite them with the families of their original owners. For those who lost relatives in the Holocaust, these books are often the only remaining possession of their relatives they have ever held. And as Rydell travels to return the volume he was given, he shows just how much a single book can mean to those who own it. From the Hardcover edition.


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For readers of The Monuments Men and The Hare with Amber Eyes, the story of the Nazis' systematic pillaging of Europe's libraries, and the small team of heroic librarians now working to return the stolen books to their rightful owners. While the Nazi party was being condemned by much of the world for burning books, they were already hard at work perpetrating an even great For readers of The Monuments Men and The Hare with Amber Eyes, the story of the Nazis' systematic pillaging of Europe's libraries, and the small team of heroic librarians now working to return the stolen books to their rightful owners. While the Nazi party was being condemned by much of the world for burning books, they were already hard at work perpetrating an even greater literary crime. Through extensive new research that included records saved by the Monuments Men themselves—Anders Rydell tells the untold story of Nazi book theft, as he himself joins the effort to return the stolen books. When the Nazi soldiers ransacked Europe’s libraries and bookshops, large and small, the books they stole were not burned. Instead, the Nazis began to compile a library of their own that they could use to wage an intellectual war on literature and history. In this secret war, the libraries of Jews, Communists, Liberal politicians, LGBT activists, Catholics, Freemasons, and many other opposition groups were appropriated for Nazi research, and used as an intellectual weapon against their owners. But when the war was over, most of the books were never returned. Instead many found their way into the public library system, where they remain to this day. Now, Rydell finds himself entrusted with one of these stolen volumes, setting out to return it to its rightful owner. It was passed to him by the small team of heroic librarians who have begun the monumental task of combing through Berlin’s public libraries to identify the looted books and reunite them with the families of their original owners. For those who lost relatives in the Holocaust, these books are often the only remaining possession of their relatives they have ever held. And as Rydell travels to return the volume he was given, he shows just how much a single book can mean to those who own it. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a moving account of the books plundered in tens of millions by the Nazi’s – from the Jewish community, but also from Communists, émigré libraries, Freemasons and others. As the Nazi party gained power, not only people, but libraries and book collections were scattered. I am, and have always been, a lover of books. To take books and burn them, as the Nazi’s famously did; to blacklist books and authors, is to try to control the history, and thoughts, of a population. The Nazi party instinc This is a moving account of the books plundered in tens of millions by the Nazi’s – from the Jewish community, but also from Communists, émigré libraries, Freemasons and others. As the Nazi party gained power, not only people, but libraries and book collections were scattered. I am, and have always been, a lover of books. To take books and burn them, as the Nazi’s famously did; to blacklist books and authors, is to try to control the history, and thoughts, of a population. The Nazi party instinctively realised the power of books, but there was opposition to this theft of literary culture and attempts to smuggle out important works – to hide them, or even to destroy them before they were stolen. Much of this book centres on the attempts to catalogue the books that have been found since the war, when it was gradually realised that many of the books in public libraries in Europe had been stolen from libraries, or individuals. Inscriptions, letters, bookplates and any identifying marks are extensively researched to try to return the books to the relatives of the original owners. Along the way, and intertwined with information about the immense job of both cataloguing the huge numbers of books found and reuniting them with the original owners, or relatives of these owners, we read of the history of these books and of Jewish literature. Of Amsterdam, the centre for Jewish literature during the 1600’s, of the Freemason’s Lodge in the Hague, of Rome, Greece, Berlin, Prague, Paris and Lithuania. When you read that those in the Jewish ghetto of Vilinius borrowed books by the thousands; as a reader, you understand the need for words to transport you to another place (the most borrowed book was “War and Peace,” as a matter of interest). During this work, the author personally returns a book to the granddaughter of the man it once belonged to. There is something so touching about this event and of the author’s knowledge that the small volume he carries from one country to another is so precious. The recipient lives in Cannock, outside Birmingham and, at times, even she is unsure about why this means so much to her – to have a book, written in a language she cannot read, which belonged to a man she did not know. However, I am sure that her grandfather would have liked to have had something so personal to him in the hands of his relative, and that this object (and a book is an object like no other) will help her feel close to him. This really is a wonderful read, exploring all of the lost books – and lost lives – that still haunt the present.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This is a valuable addition to the collection of writing about Nazi looting and plundering throughout their sphere of influence as it addresses the taking of books and other written materials exclusively. It also ties this in to the creation of the Nazi's primary "myth": the Jew as the cause, not only of the war, but of a vast worldwide conspiracy in historical terms. In careful detail, the author, discusses the early philosophy behind National Socialism and the various men who had been proposin This is a valuable addition to the collection of writing about Nazi looting and plundering throughout their sphere of influence as it addresses the taking of books and other written materials exclusively. It also ties this in to the creation of the Nazi's primary "myth": the Jew as the cause, not only of the war, but of a vast worldwide conspiracy in historical terms. In careful detail, the author, discusses the early philosophy behind National Socialism and the various men who had been proposing ideas that would eventually become part of The Third Reich and the planned One Thousand Years Reich. In addition to this, the author addresses the arduous, and often seemingly impossible, task of returning books to their owners, be they individuals, congregations or libraries. Of course a major problem is that so many of the owners and institutions are destroyed. Naively, I thought that the Nazi war machine sought out books only to destroy them. This was sometimes their purpose but often not. They had special squads established before they had invaded other countries (having practiced well internally) whose job it was to locate libraries large and small of specific groups, i.e. Jews, Freemasons, Russian Emigrants, emigrants from other conquered nations considered "lesser" peoples, etc. Books and other written materials were gathered up for study as part of the plan for the future 1000 year Reich. And also as a form of justification for the current war. These books and written documents were to be used to somehow prove that the Jews were in a centuries-old plot to control the world...aided by the Freemasons (who happened to control Britain and the United States). As anyone who has taken basic philosophy or statistics knows, people can force words to prove what they want to see. There are details provided country by country, taking the route that the German army followed through Western then Eastern Europe. So much detail but also some very specific information on individuals. This was a truly fascinating read for me as it opened my eyes to a side of Nazi-ism that I had never considered, and I feel I should have. As this "ism" continues to rear its ugly head again today, I believe it is important to know as much about its history as possible in order to be ready for its present. I highly recommend this book for any interested in the history of ideas. 4.5* A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. Recently, I attended the 2017 MLA conference. There were several panels, more like hundreds and while some of them were a little dull, many of the ones I attended were awesome. One of the best was a panel about the destruction or taking of the libraries those a nation conquers. The focus was largely on the Israel/Palestine question in terms of those libraries (and the panel had to be hastily resembled apparently), but the points raised are good ones. Want to contro Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. Recently, I attended the 2017 MLA conference. There were several panels, more like hundreds and while some of them were a little dull, many of the ones I attended were awesome. One of the best was a panel about the destruction or taking of the libraries those a nation conquers. The focus was largely on the Israel/Palestine question in terms of those libraries (and the panel had to be hastily resembled apparently), but the points raised are good ones. Want to control or destroy a people, want to control a narrative? You must control the literature to do this. You must control access and literary as well. It’s like art, and after all, literature is part of the arts. Over the past several years, there have been various movies and books about the Nazis obsession with art. Usually that definition of art has been defined as the visual arts – paintings, sculptures - yet some writers, such as Lynn H. Nicholas do mention and go into some detail about the Nazis confiscating of the Torah. Outside of this, mention of the destruction of Jewish books, there has been little in general history, and perhaps just English, about the Nazis derive to get books, to raid libraries. Anders Rydell’s book, The Book Thieves, addresses this. Rydell looks at the Nazi’s looting, not just of Jewish libraries, but of city and country libraries and archives. He also looks at those libraries that gained volumes, sometimes huge collections because of the circumstances of invasion and looting. The story starts as many book stories do – with a book that is at its heart a mystery. Any buyer or reader of a previously owned or used book, there sometimes is a mystery about the previous owner – an inscription, a bookplate, underlining – something that is a clue about the before. Rydell is part of returning this book to a descendant of the original owner. The book itself traces not only the vanishing of private libraries but the battle to save and smuggle books to safety. The books in danger include religious works, fiction, and old manuscripts. The stories are at times inspiring - as the German librarians who are determined to trace the owners or their descendants of books that the library gain though less than moral means. At times the stories are depressing, such as the Italian library that lost its treasures and has yet to find them. There are the Dutch who brave death to save works. Rydell’s book adds another and important layer to the history of the Nazi attack on culture.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    I am really in the minority as far as this book is concerned. After reading The Monuments Men which was an excellent adventure of the discovery and return of many of the art treasures plundered by the Nazis, I thought that this book would a great follow-up. Unfortunately, it did no live up to my expectations. The burning of books was one of the Nazi's favorite pastimes......anything by Jewish authors or books that contained subjects that took issue with Nazi thinking went into the bonfires. Libra I am really in the minority as far as this book is concerned. After reading The Monuments Men which was an excellent adventure of the discovery and return of many of the art treasures plundered by the Nazis, I thought that this book would a great follow-up. Unfortunately, it did no live up to my expectations. The burning of books was one of the Nazi's favorite pastimes......anything by Jewish authors or books that contained subjects that took issue with Nazi thinking went into the bonfires. Libraries, both public and private were destroyed or plundered and irreplaceable books were lost. After the war, a group of dedicated librarian and bibliophiles began searching through library collections in an attempt to find some of these plundered tomes and the work continues into the present day. The author should be commended for the quality and amount of research done for this book but I hate to say it but I found it dry as dust. The reader is led through one library/learning institution after another and shown books that appear to have been stolen by the Nazis and then returned to collections without identification as to the original owners. That approach begin to become so repetitive that I found myself scanning forward and realized that maybe I should put the book aside and try it another time. It just did not hold my interest which surprised me as I thought I would find it fascinating.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    A fascinating story of ordinary people performing extraordinary acts to protect literature from being lost. Flipping between modern day and WWII, the author takes us through a Europe ravaged by Nazi oppression and Jewish segregation. However, this book has messages of hope throughout. The story follows people who tried to protect Jewish literature (or books written by Jews) from being confiscated and destroyed by Nazis. There's some pretty clever stories about how books were smuggled to safety a A fascinating story of ordinary people performing extraordinary acts to protect literature from being lost. Flipping between modern day and WWII, the author takes us through a Europe ravaged by Nazi oppression and Jewish segregation. However, this book has messages of hope throughout. The story follows people who tried to protect Jewish literature (or books written by Jews) from being confiscated and destroyed by Nazis. There's some pretty clever stories about how books were smuggled to safety and some heartbreaking ones of people who weren't safe. There's also a beautiful focus on the power of books and their role in people's identities. Several anecdotes discussed how some survivors were able to find closure after the discovery of a long-lost tome. I recommend this for anyone who appreciates the power of literature or those who want to read a less discussed topic on WWII.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anna W.

    I have lived in the midwestern United States for all of my life. Much of my physical travel has not included areas outside the borders of it, either. However, books have always provided me a glimpse of other nations and other cultures--ways of life that have expanded my esoteric understanding of the world. This limitation of my own reality is one of the reasons I get pretty bent out of shape when censorship is brought up. My personal belief system centers around free thought, even when—especiall I have lived in the midwestern United States for all of my life. Much of my physical travel has not included areas outside the borders of it, either. However, books have always provided me a glimpse of other nations and other cultures--ways of life that have expanded my esoteric understanding of the world. This limitation of my own reality is one of the reasons I get pretty bent out of shape when censorship is brought up. My personal belief system centers around free thought, even when—especially when—one's ideas differ from my own. I want to know other views! How boring is life if everyone agrees all of the time?! Also, a limitation on free thought manifests into a ban on freedom of speech, which eventually includes a ban of public protest and journalism in addition to fiction and non fiction writing. Inevitably, censorship sets off a thunderous dynamo effect in my mind that schematically ends somewhere near book burning. “The Book Thieves” by Anders Rydell seeks to explore the nature of how this existential and literal ban on the word came to be, including the Nazi looting of Europe's libraries. “The theft of their culture was,” Rydell notes, “a way of robbing [the people] of their history, their humanity, and, in the final analysis, any posibility of remembrance.” This book is imperative not only in content but also in hope: let us not forget from whence we came so we for certain do not return. The book begins with a look at Berlin, specifically the genesis of book burning. The books “were stolen not for honor and not only out of greed either—but rather for...the most important ideologues of the Third Reich... the targets of this plunder were the ideological enemies of the movement—Jews, Communists, Freemasons, Catholics...” (Foreward). Readers are asked to remember, right away, that the theft of books was not just physical property theft but also ideas; oppositional ideaologies were purloined to quell uprising. As the book continues, several areas of Europe are addressed, including: Weimar, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, and Prague, among others. There is a section or chapter for every book lover, historically inclined or otherwise. Without knowledge of what has happened to our books--our loves--then what will keep us from noticing perilous admonitions in the future? As the Edmund Burke (Santayana too) adage says, “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” As an educator, I highly recommend this book for secondary history courses or upper elective or required literature courses. The chapters are approachable, a mix of present-day research and citations of historical statistics. The current text sits at approximately 300 pages, which is very doable for a high school classroom or a general ed. required college course. Approximately 7% of the book is notes or citations for where the historical statistics and references can be found, which could provide an interesting research query project all on its own. Overall I found the book to be an interesting and well rounded review of one of the worst atrocities to the written word from the 21st century. I feel it is an imperative educational apex, and I hope that educators (and all citizens with respect for the written word) review this book for what it is: a catalog, a counsel, and a caution. I received an advanced copy of this text via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim Swike

    I expected more information, didn't learn much from this book. Maybe you will feel differently. Enjoy! I expected more information, didn't learn much from this book. Maybe you will feel differently. Enjoy!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Out of the fire The Nazi regime in Germany is most commonly associated with burning books, not collecting them, and indeed they did organize ritual book burning in the 30s as the Nazis expressed their ideology in the form of symbolic destruction of books by and about Jews, communists, and other enemies of the state. But books, since Gutenberg and movable type, are printed and sold in quantities which make the complete destruction of a printed idea by fire or other means a difficult Review title: Out of the fire The Nazi regime in Germany is most commonly associated with burning books, not collecting them, and indeed they did organize ritual book burning in the 30s as the Nazis expressed their ideology in the form of symbolic destruction of books by and about Jews, communists, and other enemies of the state. But books, since Gutenberg and movable type, are printed and sold in quantities which make the complete destruction of a printed idea by fire or other means a difficult proposition. You might capture most of the print run of a book to put on your book pyre, but there will always be one you don't find because it is carefully hidden or carelessly lost and that idea you tried to destroy will eventually find the light of day again and reignite the fire of the idea in new words and new printed books. So Rydell's history unveils the tale of how the Nazi government came to understand and embrace this truth about books and moved from burning books to capturing them. While the story of Nazi looting of Europe's artistic heritage and its recovery by the Monuments Men (told in a mediocre movie based on the much better book) is well known, this parallel effort to capture books is less well known. As Rydell argues, while the Nazis stole art to adopt the European heritage and show how they fulfilled its perfection, they captured books for a much more devious and dangerous purpose: by doing so they could silence their enemies, bury their ideas, and write them out of history while proving the power of the Aryan dream of racial superiority and wiping out the sources of any effective counter argument. They could, in the case of the Jews, the primary enemy of the Nazi worldview, "write Jewish studies without Jews:" But it was not solely a war of physical extermination, it was also a battle for memory and history. And in this Alfred Rosenberg's project played a leading role. The plundering of libraries and archives went to the very core of this battle for control of memory. This was also what set the book thefts apart from other kinds of looting, such as that of art....Works of art were trophies that glorified leaders and the nation....But the actual ideology would be underpinned by books and archives. The future would be built by a control of memory and history, on the basis of the written word. (p. 240) So, as Rydell documents, the German government organized teams, under the leadership of chief Nazi theorist Rosenberg, to plunder public and private libraries in captured territories and bring the books back to Germany. The sheer number of books is daunting and unknown, numbering in the millions, possibly 10s of millions (compared to thousands of art and cultural objects stolen and recaptured by the Monuments Men). Unlike art which is unique and closely documented and provenanced, books are not unique and not as closely tracked. Hence, as Rydell sets chapters in various locations on both the Eastern and Western fronts, he very often is only able to offer approximate counts of books taken, and even less sure guesses of the number of books that survived. Because many if not most book collections were broken up and sent to different locations within German territory under different government agencies, efforts to reassemble and repatriate books to the source country and collection have returned pitiably small percentages of the plundered material. As a former librarian, I can sympathize when he describes the extremely slow (and expensive in time and money) and painful effort to identify the original source of individual books. He talks to librarians in some German libraries who are realizing that there is a moral imperative to try to find which books on their shelves may have made their way there through the undocumented acquisition of a book or subset of books from a plundered collection. He also describes how these efforts are being hampered or abandoned because of the expense and by political arguments that "enough has been done" to make restitution, a common argument in Russia, which after a brief burst of book returns during the glasnost era has found restitution to the bitter German enemy who killed millions of Russians in the war an untenable political position. While not as riveting and dramatic as the Monuments Men tales, Rydell counters with the argument that politically and philosophically the book thefts were of greater impact when placed in the context of the Nazi plans for racial dominance in a fascist world after a victorious end to the war. He could have helped his argument along by including a map of the location of the sources of the collections he describes in his chapters, and the transport routes and resting places for the plundered books. And while numbers are sketchy at best and often unknown, a table showing counts of books taken by country and collection, the disposition of those books (destroyed, saved, lost), and how many have been returned would have been interesting to see. The problem of the unknown limits Rydell's precision and haunts us with the uncertainty of how much has been lost. Some of the collected materials were priceless one of a kind manuscripts that when lost must snuff out that author's ideas for ever. But books and ideas will have their revenge. Books in the printing press era are by definition mass produced and widely distributed to the limits of literacy, cost, and transportation methods. Even if only a few copies were printed, and if most were lost or destroyed, there may still be that one copy, in a barn (some looted books were stored or dumped in barns and discovered there years later, Rydell reports) or a warehouse or forgotten on a library shelf, with an idea that will speak and change the world when found and shared again. If World War II proved one thing positive and positively, it is that ideas and peoples can't be burned or gassed out of existence. Rydell's tale is both one of caution and of cause for hope.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    SUMMARY THE BOOK THIEVES is much more than the story of the Nazi pillaging of Europe's libraries. Anders Rydell explores the evolution of the Nazi ideology and the men behind the destruction of the literary culture of the Third Reich's "internal enemies". Rydell explores how and why the German mandate shifted from destruction to the confiscation of valuable books for the purpose of ideological research and evaluation. "What is more frightening, a totalitarian regimes destruction of knowledge or i SUMMARY THE BOOK THIEVES is much more than the story of the Nazi pillaging of Europe's libraries. Anders Rydell explores the evolution of the Nazi ideology and the men behind the destruction of the literary culture of the Third Reich's "internal enemies". Rydell explores how and why the German mandate shifted from destruction to the confiscation of valuable books for the purpose of ideological research and evaluation. "What is more frightening, a totalitarian regimes destruction of knowledge or it's hankering for it?" THE BOOK THIEVES gives us a glimpse into some of the treasures of the greatest library collections of Poland, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, and Greece. By The end of the war millions upon millions of books had been destroyed or confiscated. Trains overflowing with crates of books from all over Europe were transported to Germany. And only a short time later these books were appropriated by the Soviet Trophy Brigades. The looted library collections were repeatedly sorted, divided, and scattered, never to be reassembled again. Rydell shares the many challenges of library reclamation and restitution. He tells us some of the unique deals and exchanges that have been brokered by various countries to get back even small segments of their collections. Rydell personally visits many of the places where books are being catalogued, and he introduces us to the people who attempt to find the descendants of these orphaned books. Rydell even plays a part in the return of a small green book which had been plundered from a family apartment in Berlin. REVIEW I loved THE BOOK THIEVES, but it broke my heart. It is the story of lost intellect and memories. You may think you know what happened, but Rydell makes it real. The book is about the treasures that were lost between 1933 and 1945. As you read you can almost feel the half-inch bullet hole in the top left corner of the small light-brown leather-bound book, or smell the millions of damp and rotting books found in a church attic in 1990. THE BOOK THIEVES gives us an understanding of the number of books that were destroyed, stolen and lost and it will knock you off your feet. THE BOOK THIEVES gives us an understanding of the plans for the confiscated books and it will scare you. THE BOOK THIEVES gives us an understanding of the politics behind the reclamation and it will make you mad. The breadth of background that this book covers is very impressive and enlightening. The book contains over 400 footnotes. It appears to be well documented by Rydell's interviews, his research and his personal visits. Fans of the Monuments Men would love this book. This book should be read by anyone with a passion for books, or for books about books. "But it was not solely a war of physical extermination, it was also a battle for memory and history." Thanks to PENGUIN GROUP Viking and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy of The Book Thieves in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    ManOfLaBook.com

    The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell (translated by Henning Koch) is a non-fiction book which tells of the efforts of the Nazis to ransack European libraries, bookshops and private collections. The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell (translated by Henning Koch) is a fascinating look at another aspect of the Nazi killing machine, this t The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell (translated by Henning Koch) is a non-fiction book which tells of the efforts of the Nazis to ransack European libraries, bookshops and private collections. The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell (translated by Henning Koch) is a fascinating look at another aspect of the Nazi killing machine, this time trying to murder culture and thought. Even more sinister, the Nazis used those stolen books to wage a war on history and even literature itself. The author did a great job investigating the stories of looting and, eventually, the impossible task of trying to find the original owners of the books. For at least one person, a worthless book (money wise) was the only thing left from the home he was forced to leave, after many years he was touched to receive some sort of childhood memory. This is a two part story, the first one, as the name of the book suggests, is the story of the Nazis trying to control people’s beliefs via literature, punishment and spectacles of burning books symbolizing “wrong” ideology. The second part is the painstaking cataloging of millions of books, returning what can be returned (through notes, plates and other identifying marks). The author also gives the history of some of Europe’s most famous libraries. This book is a fascinating and comprehensive account of the subject and an excellent addition to any World War II scholarship collection. I got this book for free in exchange for a review For more reviews and bookish posts please visit my bookish blog at http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dschreiber

    I was hoping for something more insightful. Once the idea of looted books was introduced, I waited to read more about the effect of the loss of all those books and more about exactly what the Nazis hoped to achieve by collecting them. Instead, it's very detailed account of the looted books that ended up in this library and that repository, with a chapter for each location. I didn't finish the book. It seemed like a kind of reference book, although with passages tacked on in an attempt to make it I was hoping for something more insightful. Once the idea of looted books was introduced, I waited to read more about the effect of the loss of all those books and more about exactly what the Nazis hoped to achieve by collecting them. Instead, it's very detailed account of the looted books that ended up in this library and that repository, with a chapter for each location. I didn't finish the book. It seemed like a kind of reference book, although with passages tacked on in an attempt to make it more appealing, using that bane, that horror, of modern writing, the journalist introducing each section with a pointless description of his impressions of the neighbourhood of the library and what the librarian was wearing, blah-blah. Writers of the world, please stop!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    There are some interesting facts here and the subject is interesting. Unfortunately the book as a whole is quite boring.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    As I read this I kept thinking of Sean Connery's line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: All this book burning entailed looting a continent's worth of libraries and archives, specifically to root out so-called subversive literature (i.e. anything Jewish). But, as Rydell points out, the Nazis weren't just about burning books: The image of burning books has been altogether too tempting, too effective, and too symbolic not to be used and applied in the writing of history. But the burning of boo As I read this I kept thinking of Sean Connery's line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: All this book burning entailed looting a continent's worth of libraries and archives, specifically to root out so-called subversive literature (i.e. anything Jewish). But, as Rydell points out, the Nazis weren't just about burning books: The image of burning books has been altogether too tempting, too effective, and too symbolic not to be used and applied in the writing of history. But the burning of books became so powerful a metaphor for cultural annihilation that it overshadowed another more unpleasant narrative, namely how the Nazis did a great deal more than simply destroy books—they were also driven by a fanatical obsession to collect them. They were also abetted by a very willing populace, including (*sad face*) librarians: Wolfgang Herrmann, a librarian who had involved himself with right-wing extremist student groups as early as the 1920s, had been working for several years on a list of literature "worthy of being burned." The first draft only listed 12 names, but this was soon expanded to 131 writers, subdivided into various categories. Well, that's one way to weed your collection...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lorri

    The Book Thieves is a well-documented and researched book. Much has been said about artwork/paintings that were stolen, but not much has been voiced regarding books that were plundered. This book, in extremely excellent detail brings life to those books. Not only the books, but the owners of certain books are illuminated. Their lives given substance through the pages of their personal libraries. Finding information regarding individual books and provenance, and regarding book collections is a ti The Book Thieves is a well-documented and researched book. Much has been said about artwork/paintings that were stolen, but not much has been voiced regarding books that were plundered. This book, in extremely excellent detail brings life to those books. Not only the books, but the owners of certain books are illuminated. Their lives given substance through the pages of their personal libraries. Finding information regarding individual books and provenance, and regarding book collections is a time-consuming endeavor. The search for provenance continues and could take generations to completely uncover the ownership of the plundered books. There is a wealth of information regarding various international libraries that hold plundered books, and information regarding organizations holding stolen books, and other entities that shelve stolen books, some in plain sight. There are many library collections, and individual books, in back rooms-in storage (hundreds of thousands at least). The information is extremely detailed, and readers should be aware of that fact. The Book Thieves was an intensely written book, with nothing left unturned, as far as the labors involved. It is an amazingly illuminating book, holding an extraordinary amount of data regarding records, documents, books, individuals, organizations, etc., within its pages. The effort to find provenance is a never-ending one, driven by those who believe in reparation/restitution.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Received through FirstReads... 4 1/2 stars if that were an option. When one thinks of the looting that happened during WWII, probably the first thing that comes to mind is art, as that's what has received the most attention. This book brings to light the staggering amount of books that were stolen. Most were never returned, or even found. The author does a good job of including facts, numbers, etc, without slowing the story down. Also, I appreciated that there was a good background history of how Received through FirstReads... 4 1/2 stars if that were an option. When one thinks of the looting that happened during WWII, probably the first thing that comes to mind is art, as that's what has received the most attention. This book brings to light the staggering amount of books that were stolen. Most were never returned, or even found. The author does a good job of including facts, numbers, etc, without slowing the story down. Also, I appreciated that there was a good background history of how the nazis slowly but surely gained complete control of Germany. It was actually very disturbing, as I read, I was not thinking about how it could never happen again, but how easily it could.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jon Vincek

    Goodreads Giveaway Winner: This is by far the best giveaway book that I have yet to receive. Rydell does a great job of explaining the systematic theft of a culture and the attempts to redeem it. Each page is more interesting than the last. Through his travels, Rydell shows the people that are trying to do the right thing. The work for justice is often overlooked. The researchers and librarians are attempting a thankless task that most people are not interested in doing. Through their hard work Goodreads Giveaway Winner: This is by far the best giveaway book that I have yet to receive. Rydell does a great job of explaining the systematic theft of a culture and the attempts to redeem it. Each page is more interesting than the last. Through his travels, Rydell shows the people that are trying to do the right thing. The work for justice is often overlooked. The researchers and librarians are attempting a thankless task that most people are not interested in doing. Through their hard work a few wounds can be healed. As much as a tragedy this book is, it reminds us that there is still good in the world.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark Fallon

    "The Nazis knew how important books were to the Jews. Reading makes you into a human being. When someone takes it away from you they also steal your thoughts. They wanted to destroy the Jews by robbing them of what was most important to them." - Michal Busek In addition to the known atrocities committed by the Nazis, Anders Rydell's book reveals the systematic theft, and often destruction, of libraries across Europe and the former Soviet Union. Disturbing and important book to read. "The Nazis knew how important books were to the Jews. Reading makes you into a human being. When someone takes it away from you they also steal your thoughts. They wanted to destroy the Jews by robbing them of what was most important to them." - Michal Busek In addition to the known atrocities committed by the Nazis, Anders Rydell's book reveals the systematic theft, and often destruction, of libraries across Europe and the former Soviet Union. Disturbing and important book to read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    This is a very well done research book which taught me some things I knew and some I did not, but; didn't really understand. A very heart breaking read in so many ways. This is a very well done research book which taught me some things I knew and some I did not, but; didn't really understand. A very heart breaking read in so many ways.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yibbie

    A very informative book about a little known and even less cared for aspect of the Nazi era and its aftermath. What a heartbreaking chronicle of the almost complete destruction of so many libraries and collections. It gets a bit overwhelming. The only thing that kept it from ending on a completely disheartening note was the bittersweet story of restitution that the author was able to facilitate. The author gives the history behind some of the most famous libraries in pre-WW2 Europe such as the A very informative book about a little known and even less cared for aspect of the Nazi era and its aftermath. What a heartbreaking chronicle of the almost complete destruction of so many libraries and collections. It gets a bit overwhelming. The only thing that kept it from ending on a completely disheartening note was the bittersweet story of restitution that the author was able to facilitate. The author gives the history behind some of the most famous libraries in pre-WW2 Europe such as the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam, the Bibliotheque Russe Tourqueniev, the Bibliotheque Polonaise, and the Biblioteca della Comunita Israelitica. Rydell did a very good job of combining the details of the destruction of each library with the reasoning, as used by the Nazis, behind its destruction or confiscation. Then he carefully tracks the movements each collection are it is broken apart, transferred, stored, lost, liberated or destroyed. It’s an interesting example of politics and greed getting in the way of justice, but it also is a tribute to those very few who are doing their best to restore some of these stolen treasures to their rightful owners. Even today governments are arguing about who these books belong to. The only negative I had was the naming of each library or organization in its native language. I didn’t mind that at the introduction of each, but the repeated use of the full name in a foreign language really broke my concentration as I tried to remember the translation of each name. I received this as a free ARC from NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking. No review was required.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    A thoughtful, well-researched book. The looting of European art during WWII has gotten a lot of attention but the Nazis were just as determined to take whatever they wanted from European libraries (both institutional and personal ones), sending much back to Germany to enrich their own libraries and archives but also destroying. Book starts in Germany itself with the Nazi takeover, then covers Amsterdam, Paris, Italy, before moving to places that I wasn't familiar with but that suffered almost l A thoughtful, well-researched book. The looting of European art during WWII has gotten a lot of attention but the Nazis were just as determined to take whatever they wanted from European libraries (both institutional and personal ones), sending much back to Germany to enrich their own libraries and archives but also destroying. Book starts in Germany itself with the Nazi takeover, then covers Amsterdam, Paris, Italy, before moving to places that I wasn't familiar with but that suffered almost losses of their culture, Thessaloniki and Vilnius. Rydell's argument, too, is that even when individual books were saved & live on today in another library, their context has been lost, because the libraries that they were once part of had a greater value as a whole than do its individual pieces. Also interspersed with the story of the looting are stories of what is being done today to return a literary inheritance, particularly to the descendants whose parents or grandparents lost all their possessions and their lives to the Nazis. It took me 6 weeks to make it through this 300 page book; it isn't light reading but well worth the time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Translated from the Swedish, this book presents the outlines of the book and manuscript thievery conducted by agencies of the German government during WWII and describes such efforts as have occurred to return them to their rightful owners, be they individuals or institutions. The parallels with art thefts of the period are clear enough. Art objects are generally more valuable as commodities, but books, and the ways the Nazis meant to handle them, represented an ideological value. By iiquidating Translated from the Swedish, this book presents the outlines of the book and manuscript thievery conducted by agencies of the German government during WWII and describes such efforts as have occurred to return them to their rightful owners, be they individuals or institutions. The parallels with art thefts of the period are clear enough. Art objects are generally more valuable as commodities, but books, and the ways the Nazis meant to handle them, represented an ideological value. By iiquidating Jews and Jewish institutions while appropriating their literature the Nazis could conduct, as they said, 'Jewish studies without Jews', thereby controlling the narrative. So, too, they directed their attention to the Left (communists, socialists, anarchists, trade unionists) and to the Masonic orders (including the fabled Illuminati)--all with the purpose of rewriting history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Fascinating.The Nazi's basically stole Libraries across Europe to prove to the rest of the world that there really was a "Jewish Conspiracy" and that they could "prove it" through personal libries, correspondence, archives, etc.....I have been reading about WW2 for almost 30 years now and this is one of the most fascinating books books I have ever read. Fascinating.The Nazi's basically stole Libraries across Europe to prove to the rest of the world that there really was a "Jewish Conspiracy" and that they could "prove it" through personal libries, correspondence, archives, etc.....I have been reading about WW2 for almost 30 years now and this is one of the most fascinating books books I have ever read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Richardson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was a book that really opened my eyes to a cultural vandalism that I was previously unaware. The Nazi theft of art and valuable collections has received a fair degree of popular coverage, but their thefts of book collections - Jewish and other 'undesirables' including bolshevism - was something I had never previously considered. This volume outlines the astonishing scale of the thefts; entire national, emigree and private libraries holding priceless and irreplaceable talmuds and manuscripts This was a book that really opened my eyes to a cultural vandalism that I was previously unaware. The Nazi theft of art and valuable collections has received a fair degree of popular coverage, but their thefts of book collections - Jewish and other 'undesirables' including bolshevism - was something I had never previously considered. This volume outlines the astonishing scale of the thefts; entire national, emigree and private libraries holding priceless and irreplaceable talmuds and manuscripts (some medieval) were stolen alongside smaller collections of books worth no more than several euros each today. But they were stolen nonetheless and shipped to Germany for future study. Published collections on or about Jewish history, religious practice, cultural expressions and business practices (including the Rothschild papers) were a way to get inside the mind of, and understand, the Jewish people (including Yiddish language and cultural practice). In doing so, the Nazis (for they were ideological Nazis) stole enormous volumes of European Jewish cultural and linguistic history. The thefts were widespread, from France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the west, to the almost total plunder from Greece in the south, to Poland, Latvia and Russia in the east. Many of the stolen volumes were offered to German libraries, and they survive in library collections to this day. There is a small but determined group of librarians and archivists and cultural experts seeking to repatriate as much of these collections as possible, but tracing ownership has been extraordinarily difficult. This book tells that story and catalogues the forensic steps that organisations under Alfred Rosenberg and Heinrich Himmler went to in order to strip the conquered territories of Jewish literature and linguistic and cultural history. The author is a journalist who approaches the topic almost as an historian would, visiting the libraries whose collections were stripped, and those who seek to repatriate stolen books to their rightful homes 75 years later. Individual volumes that retain the (ex-libris) book plates from former private owners are amongst the most difficult to trace. The brave efforts of Jewish populations in ghettos to protect their literary heritage by secreting books away is heartbreaking - especially when they eventually paid with their lives. This was a book that gave me a new perspective on what I thought I knew about the theft of Europe's cultural and literary heritage under German occupation. Aside from some repetition in places that restates how brutal the German activity was (as if there could be any doubts), it's a tremendously engaging read. Its also remarkably poignant and applicable today, as waves of hard right nationalism wash over parts of Europe once again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This non-fiction book tells the story of the Nazis looting public and private libraries during WWII. “ …The Nazis realized that if there was something that gave more power than merely destroying the word, it was owning and controlling it. There was a power in books.” I had heard of book burnings, but I was not aware of the extent of confiscating the books of Jews, Freemasons, Leftists, etc. all across Europe. The Nazis wanted to exterminate the Jews but preserve them as a historical and symbolic This non-fiction book tells the story of the Nazis looting public and private libraries during WWII. “ …The Nazis realized that if there was something that gave more power than merely destroying the word, it was owning and controlling it. There was a power in books.” I had heard of book burnings, but I was not aware of the extent of confiscating the books of Jews, Freemasons, Leftists, etc. all across Europe. The Nazis wanted to exterminate the Jews but preserve them as a historical and symbolic enemy through the creation of their trophy libraries containing millions of books. Some of these trophy documents & books are 800 years old. There were medieval manuscripts, a Gutenberg Bible etc. Almost 2 million trophy books were delivered to Moscow. After the war, it is estimated that 10 – 11 million books were sent back. Library collections had been split up and were found in different locations in the world. It is unknown how many books are missing as well as how many were destroyed by sitting in depositories where the weather damaged the books. Jews loved their books and valued the written word. Often detainees would take a couple of books with them on their way to the death camps. Books from the private libraries contained beautiful and personally designed bookplates (ex libris). Jews treasured their books. The task of finding and returning these books to the appropriate public libraries or Holocaust descendants is small-scale and time consuming. Some in Germany and Russia feel the time for restitution is over. Germany believes they have paid their debt. The return of property continues slowly – book by book. One English woman said this returned book is all she has left from her paternal Jewish grandfather. During the war, many children didn’t even know they were Jewish until their parents told them. At the recent funeral of my 98-year old uncle, I learned that he was one of the soldiers that helped liberate the death camps. He rarely spoke of it. His daughter said he wept when he watched the movie, Schindler’s List. This book is important. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sameer khan

    There has always the curiosity regarding the art treasures stolen by the Nazis during their reign of around 12-13 years. The prime reason being the high monetary value attached with them. Multiple cases have become popular like the story of Maria Altmann and her decade-long fight to reclaim Gustav Klimt's iconic painting of her aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was stolen from her relatives by the Nazis in Vienna just prior to World War II. However, not much importance or time has eve There has always the curiosity regarding the art treasures stolen by the Nazis during their reign of around 12-13 years. The prime reason being the high monetary value attached with them. Multiple cases have become popular like the story of Maria Altmann and her decade-long fight to reclaim Gustav Klimt's iconic painting of her aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was stolen from her relatives by the Nazis in Vienna just prior to World War II. However, not much importance or time has ever been dedicated to the massive looting of libraries and private collections of books by the regime. The author goes on a Europe wide journey and tries to come to terms with the Nazi looting of Jewish and European literature. Their motive was not just to simply obliterate the races but their entire culture so that the people would have nothing to return back to and the posterity would never get to know anything about their ancestors and their cultures. They did partly get away with this horrendous act but there are still libraries and people who are bent on trying to get these precious treasures back to their original places. There is no monetary benefit attached to this project but these are the remnants of a somewhat lost generation and these people feel that it is their moral duty to complete this project. The author makes us realize how these books gave people, the hope that they craved for during their time at various concentration camps. The book ends with the author returning a plundered book to the owner's granddaughter in Birmingham and the last chapter takes you through a firsthand account of finding a long lost link to a massacred generation.

  26. 4 out of 5

    SR

    Extraordinary and thought-provoking, considering books as both historical sources and as material objects, and discussing the many ways in which books are used in the conveyance of ideas. Then, the flip side: the many ways books and the control - not necessarily destruction, but the fragmentation and recontextualizing - of books and the written word were essential to Nazi Germany's ideological war against the Other, and the depth to which Nazi ideology conflated all Other with Jewishness. This in Extraordinary and thought-provoking, considering books as both historical sources and as material objects, and discussing the many ways in which books are used in the conveyance of ideas. Then, the flip side: the many ways books and the control - not necessarily destruction, but the fragmentation and recontextualizing - of books and the written word were essential to Nazi Germany's ideological war against the Other, and the depth to which Nazi ideology conflated all Other with Jewishness. This involves a lot of digging into the psychology of Nazism, which isn't something I've done terribly much of - most of my reading is in Allied espionage, where decisions were often made based on the assumption that the Axis would believe it was too pure to be wrong, but espionage did... very little regarding the Holocaust. This book is about the erasure of a people, not about military operations. There's a great deal about many players in the Party who hadn't had military roles, such as Rosenberg. It's a fascinating and thoughtfully presented analysis of the role of research, scholarship, and curation in living and historical culture, both internally and externally.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shay

    The image of Nazis burning books is a striking and pervasive one, because of course it is based in the truth of the pyres that were made in public squares across Germany as the Third Reich rose to power. But in The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell tackles and attempts to recontextualize that image by uncovering the extent to which the Nazis were collectors of stolen literature—not just of valuable manuscripts as you might already be familiar with from Monuments Men—but of books of all types, from all The image of Nazis burning books is a striking and pervasive one, because of course it is based in the truth of the pyres that were made in public squares across Germany as the Third Reich rose to power. But in The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell tackles and attempts to recontextualize that image by uncovering the extent to which the Nazis were collectors of stolen literature—not just of valuable manuscripts as you might already be familiar with from Monuments Men—but of books of all types, from all across Europe. Rydell, a Swedish journalist, follows the trail of the pillagers from Berlin to Amsterdam and Paris, and beyond to Vilnius and Thessaloniki, demonstrating the far reach of the Nazi looters. Entire libraries disappeared, sometimes untraceably, into the mists of the war. Rydell chronicles the actors who seized and dispersed the libraries, as well as the modern librarians who now face the unenviable task of uncovering and facing up to the origins of their collections. more

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stormie

    I finished listening to this book right before my husband and I went on vacation, but ran out of time to review it! With that said, I highly recommend this book if you are even a little interested in what, exactly, the Nazis looted when it comes to artifacts. I genuinely had no idea about the massive scope of thievery that occurred leading up to WWII, and during the war--particularly, that so, so much of it was literary-based. I really enjoyed that Rydell focused heavily on not just the precious I finished listening to this book right before my husband and I went on vacation, but ran out of time to review it! With that said, I highly recommend this book if you are even a little interested in what, exactly, the Nazis looted when it comes to artifacts. I genuinely had no idea about the massive scope of thievery that occurred leading up to WWII, and during the war--particularly, that so, so much of it was literary-based. I really enjoyed that Rydell focused heavily on not just the precious books that were stolen from Jewish families, museums, and religious contexts, but that he, very appropriately so, linked the theft of literature as on par with the theft of a culture. When you are looking to eradicate (and in some instances, profit) from a group of people, just stealing valuable paintings isn't enough. Stealing someone's literature, their culture, their stories, is more personal.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Debra Lowman

    This is a book for bibliophiles. Of course I have read about the art both stolen and recovered after WWII, but truly I hadn't thought about the literature lost, stolen, or recovered. That's embarrassing, I'm a librarian. Moreover, if someone donates or we otherwise come by a book second-hand and we add it to the collection, I cross through the name scrawled inside the cover if I see one (hand over face in shame). So for me, I gave the book an extra star just for making me think about it, for exp This is a book for bibliophiles. Of course I have read about the art both stolen and recovered after WWII, but truly I hadn't thought about the literature lost, stolen, or recovered. That's embarrassing, I'm a librarian. Moreover, if someone donates or we otherwise come by a book second-hand and we add it to the collection, I cross through the name scrawled inside the cover if I see one (hand over face in shame). So for me, I gave the book an extra star just for making me think about it, for exploring a unique topic. However, I will say again that this is a book for people who love books, love the history of books and where they group. Rydell spends a lot of time on the history of particularly rare volumes and the places they were collected. I am and enjoyed it immensely. Netgalley digital copy courtesy of the publisher.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    It as very informative, but the chapters were very repetitive: the Nazis went here and took this amazing collection of books and documents, and then they went here and did a very similar thing. The most interesting thing was learning about how the Nazis were using these materials to build their propaganda. 2020 Catch Up Challenge: library book

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