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Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (DNB)

Aug 08, 2022

Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (DNB)

Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (DNB)
Image Credit: Eric-Kemnitz.com

As part of Germany's cultural memory, the German National Library collects, catalogues and archives all printed and digital material published or distributed in Germany since 1913 along with foreign publications about Germany or in the German language. They also include works published by German-speaking emigrants between 1933 and 1945 and all sheet music and musical resources published in Germany, although the music collection is partly retrospective and goes back to the early days of recorded music at the end of the 19th century. With over 43 million media units, it is the largest library in Germany. The German National Library also holds a wealth of valuable special collections in the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 and the German Museum of Books and Writing.

The German National Library was formed from several preceding institutions: the Deutsche Bücherei was founded in Leipzig in 1912, while the Deutsche Bibliothek was founded in Frankfurt am Main in 1947. The German Music Archive was integrated in 1970 as a department of the Deutsche Bibliothek in Frankfurt. In 1990, when the unification treaty was signed as part of the process of reunifying Germany, the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig and the Deutsche Bibliothek in Frankfurt am Main were merged into a single institution. In 2006, digital media works became part of the statutory mandate and the institution was renamed the “German National Library”. As a federal institution with legal capacity under public law, the German National Library is subject to the legal supervision of the Minister of State for Culture and Media. 

Even though the main holdings of the German National Library consist predominantly of deposit copies sent in by publishers immediately after the publications enter the book market, this doesn’t mean that questionable provenances can be ruled out. In many cases, gaps in the holdings were filled by antiquarian purchases, and between 1933 and 1945, the Deutsche Bücherei Leipzig acquired books through assignments from police departments or National Socialist institutions. One such assignment, which was handed over to the library from the book collection and distribution centre Vienna in 1938/39, has been thoroughly examined during a research projects a couple of years ago. Between 2018 and 2020, another project financed by in-house funds aimed at checking the serial titles and publication series which were received after 1933 but not recorded as deposit copies, in order to identity Nazi-era looted items.

Currently, the provenance research at the German National Library focuses on a systematic check of the monographs that entered the collections of the former Deutsche Bücherei Leipzig between 1933 and 1945. The research is based on the accession books of the Deutsche Bücherei, which are preserved in their original state for the accession years up until 1940. Thanks to the information recorded in the accession books, it is possible to identify books that were not inventoried as deposit copies or that came from problematic accession sources such as Gestapo offices, and to research their provenance.

Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
Deutscher Platz 1
04103 Leipzig

Website: www.dnb.de/provenienzforschung

E-Mail: provenienz@dnb.de