Books About Books: The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell

You might remember from one of my previous posts it’s good I read Adam Kirsch’s The People and the Books before I read Mark Glickman’s Stolen Words because it gave me a deeper understanding of Judaism’s most revered texts. This in turn provided me with greater context and understanding of the Nazi’s widespread plundering and destruction of the Jewish books of occupied Europe. Likewise, by reading Stolen Words prior to Anders Rydell’s The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance has only enhanced my understanding of the Nazi’s mission to forcibly acquire, and in some cases destroy Europe’s books.

According to Rydell, a Swedish journalist and editor, the Nazi’s had a well-formulated plan. As they conquered Europe, special teams would confiscate not just Jewish books and books owned by Jews or Jewish entities but any books of a “degenerate” nature. Usually, that meant books deemed Communist or associated with Freemasons. (The Nazi’s loathed Freemasonry, thinking its arcane rituals too akin to Jewish religious rites.) Once they had all forbidden books they wanted (and destroyed what they couldn’t use) they could, like something out of Orwell’s 1984, deny the enslaved masses access to contrary opinions, thus giving the Nazis a monopoly on the truth. In time, the Germans would go one step further. Select academics and government propagandists would intensely study the confiscated books, mining them for information to help promulgate the Nazi’s twisted pseudo scientific agenda.

Just like with Stolen Words, one walks away from the Book Thieves saddened that so many of the confiscated books are lost forever, or exist in libraries or private collections and can never be returned to their rightful owners. (Or worse, their current possessors refuse to repatriate them to their owner’s descendants.) Extensive libraries across Europe from Vilnius to Rome vanished into the Nazi’s black hole. The Turgenev Library of Paris, famous for its collection of Russian materials, including Marxist texts was shipped to Germany in its entirety. Later, when the Soviets took Berlin they in turn took the books to the USSR. Sadly, 75 years later only a fraction of the Turgenev’s books exist. Sad also to think close to 100 million books were destroyed when the Germans invaded the USSR.

The Book Thieves is an excellent book. Not only does it make a worthy companion to Stolen Words, but it’s great reading for bibliophiles and history buffs.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under History, Judaica

4 responses to “Books About Books: The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell

  1. One for my list, then! It’s amazing how the events of Europe in the 20th century provide a never-ending stream of tragedy. You’d think we’d run out eventually, but no.

    (Also your ‘currently reading’ widget is showing me The Anti-Communist Manifestos, which looks fascinating but has done that thing I hate where they use Russian characters to sort of Russify the font. At least they didn’t make the A with a D or use a backwards R, but that U is really a TS. Agh.)

    • Indeed! I’m reminded of the quote from Willian Faulkner “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
      I took a break from reading The Anti-Communist Manifestos but hope to get back to reading it before too long.
      Thanks for commenting! Please visit again sometime!

  2. Pingback: 2017 In Review: My Favorite Nonfiction | Maphead's Book Blog

  3. Pingback: Books About Books: The Book Smugglers by David E. Fishman | Maphead's Book Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s