Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Robbed Book Returned to IISH

Thanks to the alertness and good care of the Library Department "NS-Raub- und Beutegut” of the Freie Universität Berlin,  a book was returned to the IISH that was robbed by the Nazis from the institute's library, 75 years earlier. At the time of the seizure, the book was  housed in the Parisian depot of the IISH. It is for the first time that an item from this Parisian IISH depot that was confiscated by Hitler's Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) in 1940, returns to the place where it belongs! The RSHA seized Jewish private art and library collections and collections of institutional libraries. Read more about the history of the IISH...

The booklet in question* originated from the collection of the Kautsky family. The crates of books and archives of the Kautsky’s had arrived from Austria in Amsterdam in 1938, but the IISH management decided that it would be unwise to keep them there. Because of the impending war situation, the archive section was transferred to depots in the UK and the library section to Paris. Paris turned out to be less safe than expected. The Germans invaded France and all IISH materials, including Kautsky’s books, were deported to Berlin.

This story of theft and transport from East to West and vice versa is not yet complete, for after the war this same book was stolen once again.
Alfred Weiland(1906-1978) had been a passionate book collector since long before the war. He was an adherent of Council Communism, a rare branch within the communist movement of which Marinus van der Lubbe is the best known representative. Precisely this Mr Weiland was officially appointed by the Berlin authorities to "sort out" the books from the collections seized by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt - some 60.000 books. ** He thereby showed a lot of creativity: at the end of the ride there was a 'Weiland Collection’  of no less than 6000 books on the history of the labour movement.

Weiland tried to make money from his collection. He knew the IISH; in 1961 he offered a volume of poetry by the Council Communist Herman Gorter for sale. Eventually after Weiland’s  death in 1979, his collection was acquired by the library of the Freie Universität in (West) Berlin. The special FU Library Department selected 300 titles that contain stamps of the original owners and they are now busy, where possible, to return the books to the rightful owners.

* Von Marburg bis Monastir. Eine südslawische Reise, by Hermann Wendel (1921). The author dedicated his book to ‘Karl Kautsky in ehrfürchtiger Wertschätzung’, Frankfurt/M, 5.12.21.
** Michael Kubina, Von Utopie, Widerstand und Kaltem Krieg. Das unzeitgemässe Leben des Berliner Rätekommunisten Alfred Weiland (2000) p. 153


7 October 2015