Scholars are now able to understand the full extent of loss after the Nazis plundered 150 private libraries in Belgium from 1940-43 after years of research by two Jewish groups finally paid off this week.
It comes as the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) released an archive chronicling the cultural plunder of Hitler’s Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in occupied Belgium.
“It represents years of knowledge that many thought lost forever during the Holocaust in Belgium,” said Gideon Taylor, chair of operations at WJRO and president of the Claims Conference.
“This work, that was researched and investigated by experts in the field, will be a powerful resource for Holocaust survivors and their families, the Belgian Jewish community, and researchers around the world.”
The ERR deliberately and methodically identified private libraries of individuals and institutions that contained important cultural and historical knowledge, plundering materials curated over many careers and lifetimes.
From August 1940 to February 1943, it conducted 150 library seizure operations across Belgium, with up to 300,000 books taken. Information about the contents of those collections is now available in digital format online for the first time.
Taylor said: “Understanding where these books and cultural artifacts ended up not only offers a more accurate account of what happened, but also lays the beginning foundational work for those seeking to pursue possible claims in the future.”
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