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Date: Apr 16, 2019

Books believed lost are back in Bonn After more than 70 years 600 volumes return to the University and State Library in Bonn.

On 11 April 2019, the University and State Library of Bonn (USL) celebrated the return of more than 600 volumes that had disappeared during the immediate post-war period. Among them are Stammbuch Weyernumerous historical works of high cultural and material value. It is thegreatest successful return of lost books in the 200-year history of the University Library. In 2017, individual pieces of the book treasure, which had been privately owned for seventy years, appeared at the London auction house Sotheby's. The University of Bonn managed to obtain a quick and complete repatriation of the books.

According to estimates, the University and State Library lost up to 180,000 volumes during World War II. Many books were irretrievably destroyed in the bombing that devastated the University’s main building on October 18th, 1944. But even in the depots, where many books had been placed as a precautionary measure to protect them against the effects of war, an unknown number of volumes disappeared at the end of the war and in the immediate postwar period. Whether they were destroyed or stolen cannot be reconstructed today.

Sometimes books from this period return to Bonn after decades and on partly Meyer-Doerpinghaus und Herkenhoff thumb tortuous paths. Michael Herkenhoff, who is responsible for manuscripts at ULB, recalled: "We received a book back in 2011 and three books in 2018, which American soldiers had taken away at the end of the war. In the first case, the soldier returned the book himself, in the second case the heirs gave them back to the library." The books returned now were in the private possession of a Belgian. "These are of immense cultural and material value," said Dr. Herkenhoff, "and include medieval and modern manuscripts and documents, historical maps, early 15th-century prints, rare prints of the 16th century and numerous colored bird books."

Sotheby's contacted Bonn’s University and State Library

The fact that the volumes belong to the ULB was noticed when the Belgian owner, who had inherited the books, offered these valuable pieces to the London auction house Sotheby's.

The director of ULB, Ulrich Meyer-Doerpinghaus, said: "Sotheby's informed us after a thorough examination of the origin of the works to be auctioned. The return could then be resolved quickly and by mutual agreement with the Belgian owner." How exactly the manuscripts and old prints arrived in Belgium is unknown. Dr. Herkenhoff said: "Many valuable volumes were stored between 1946 and 1950 in a bunker in Bonn. They may have been stolen during the period of Belgian occupation in
Bonn.”

Niederländisches GebetbuchThe rapid repatriation of more than 600 volumes was facilitated by the support of the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States and the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia. "After more than 70 years, this treasure is back where it belongs. Thanks to the outstanding work of the responsible staff members, the return of this historic collection to Bonn’s University and State Library took place with mutual understanding and without any conflicts", said Dr. Hildegard Kaluza from the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia. "I am very happy that the books are now once again available to researchers and the interested public." Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, Secretary General of the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States, emphasizes the enormous cultural significance of the volumes. "Many of the old prints are not found in any other German library. They are an important testimony to the invention of book printing," he said. "The compilation is returning to its original location, strengthening, among other things, the collection focus of the ULB - Romance Language and Literature."

Urkunde Zisterzienser

The Rector of the University of Bonn Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Hoch thanked everyone involved for their exemplary cooperation and added: "I am especially pleased for our researchers, above all for our students. It is now again possible for them to work
scientifically with these unique testimonies from the old stock of our University and State Library."

This unusual event attracted attention not only of the local, but also of the international press:
 
UK

The Guardian (11.04.2019): Germany welcomes back priceless books lost in second world war.

Financial Times (11.04.2019): German library collection lost after Second World War repatriated. [paid content]

The Art Newspaper (11.04.2019): Bonn library recovers 600 books missing since the Second World War.

Belgium

Het Nieuwsblad (11.04.2019): Papa graaide na de oorlog waardevolle boeken mee uit Duitse universiteit, zijn Belgische dochter schenkt ze nu terug.


France

ActuaLitté (12.04.2019): Allemagne: 600 livres perdus lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale refont surface.

Portugal

Diário de Noticias (11.04.2019): Livro perdido na Segunda Guerra Mundial regressa a casa.

Germany

TV:

WDR Lokalzeit Bonn (11.04.2019)

Articles:

Bonner Rundschau (11.04.2019): Nach dem Krieg verschollen – Bonn erhält verloren geglaubten Kunstschatz zurück.

Generalanzeiger Bonn (11.04.2019): Mehr als 600 verloren geglaubte Bücher zurück in Bonn.

Kölner Stadtanzeiger (12.04.2019): Nach dem Krieg verschollen – Bonn erhält verloren geglaubten Kunstschatz zurück.

RTL.de (11.04.2019): Verloren geglaubte Bücher zurück in Bonn.

WDR (11.04.2019): Uni-Bibliothek Bonn erhält 645 verlorene Bücher zurück.
 

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