The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), in concert with the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), has published “Documenting Nazi Library Plunder in Occupied Belgium and Limited Postwar Retrieval,” designed to educate people on the history of the Holocaust within Belgium.
The new publication features library collections looted by the Nazi regime during World War II, and will be available in digital form online for users to peruse.
“This new online publication represents years of knowledge that many thought were lost forever during the Holocaust in Belgium,” said Gideon Taylor, WJRO chairman of operations and Claims Conference Board of Directors president. “This work, which 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 materials were stolen from targeted victims of the Holocaust some 75 years ago by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), who were organized by Adolf Hitler’s ideological spokesman Alfred Rosenberg.
The ERR systematically identified and looted the private collections of individuals and institutions after Hitler’s army invaded Belgium – all containing historical and cultural knowledge compiled by Jews, Masons, the political elite, liberal professors, labor and socialist victims over lifetimes.
The Claims Conference notes that from August 1940 to February 1943, the ERR seized over 150 libraries across Belgium – estimating to include 250,000-300,000 pieces of literature.
“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 individuals and organizations who seek to pursue possible claims in the future” added Taylor.
The two-part publication not only details the plundered libraries, but also the victims affected by the seizures during the time – combining the data of the 150 seizures to best recreate the stolen collections.
Part one will highlight the ERR files on Belgium that found their way into circulation in the 1990s in Kiev, Ukraine, which is one of the most detailed collections of ERR records from World War II.
Part two focuses on the repatriation of libraries to Belgium after they were retrieved by Allied forces. Some were nationalized and sent to other countries, while others are featured in state or national libraries in Russian and Belarus – some dedicated to the Holocaust victims they were taken from.
The release of the publication coincides with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the subsequent Nuremberg trials.