Feb 21, 2022
The Hannover City Library, whose collection and scientific reputation date back more than 580 years, has a considerable assemblage of historic materials in its possession. It is likely that many of these items were looted by the National Socialist regime.
In its acquisition practices and inventory care under National Socialism, the City Library was similar to academic libraries in that, for example, it purged officially banned literature from its catalogs and separated them in the stacks from 1933 onward. But the library did not destroy this material, as public libraries were required to do. Thus it is likely that the library also acquired banned literature that had been confiscated by the National Socialist authorities. The City Library also participated in an exchange of duplicates with academic libraries at the time. As new research – for example on the Reichstauschstelle, or Exchange Office of the Third Reich – has shown, some of these duplicate printed materials distributed through the Reichstauschstelle had been confiscated as part of the campaign of persecution.
In October 1943, more than 50 percent of the approximately 180,000 books in the library were destroyed as a result of Allied air raids. In the early post-war years, the library – seeking to rebuild its lost holdings – acquired a large number of objects of unclear or questionable provenance.
The fact these new acquisitions included diverse materials that had been looted under National Socialism has now been established without a doubt, thanks to the systematic investigation of acquisitions from the years 1945 to 1955, carried out from 2017 to 2020 with support from the Stiftung Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (German Lost Art Foundation).
The extent to which this determination also applies to acquisitions made from 1933 to the end of the war in 1945 has been under investigation since the fall of 2020 as part of the project Hannover City Library - an academic municipal library and its dubious acquisitions in the period 1933 to 1945, also funded by the German Lost Art Foundation.
The goal of this project is to document the provenance and ownership history of books identified as having been looted under the National Socialist regime, and to return them to their rightful owners or heirs.
Hannover City Library
Hildesheimer Straße 12
Tel. +49(0)511 168-32048
Fax: +49(0)511 168-46410