Photo by Claus Felix Meyer
Before and during World War II, between 30,000 and 40,000 Jewish books ended up in the hands of Julius Streicher, the infamous Nazi and editor of the anti-Semitic propaganda newspaper Der Sturmer. Today, German-Jewish community leader and former journalist Leibl Rosenberg is working to return 10,000 of them to their rightful owners.
The task is far from easy, given that few, if any, of the people from whom these books were stolen are still alive. To make matters even more difficult, only one-third of the books have stamps, signatures, ex-libris plates or bookmarks to indicate to whom they belonged.
But that has not deterred Rosenberg, who turned himself into a librarian, a Jewish and German historian, and a genealogist to catalog the collection and track down descendants and heirs of the books’ owners. He’s been at the task since 1997, and so far he has successfully restored 200 of the 10,000 books. “I don’t think we will even return more than 500,” he admits.