Readersforum's Blog

April 23, 2013

Nazi-Looted Books Spell Decades of Labor for Libraries

An almanac that once belonged to Arthur Goldschmidt, a Jewish businessman persecuted by the Nazis and a book collector who amassed 40,000 volumes. His grandson recently reached a settlement with the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which will keep the books.

An almanac that once belonged to Arthur Goldschmidt, a Jewish businessman persecuted by the Nazis and a book collector who amassed 40,000 volumes. His grandson recently reached a settlement with the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, which will keep the books.

By Catherine Hickley

Arthur Goldschmidt, a Leipzig dealer in animal feed and an exporter to South America, was more passionate about books than business. His private collection numbered 40,000 carefully indexed volumes and he engaged a librarian to take care of it.

After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Goldschmidt was persecuted as a Jew; his assets were liquidated and his company confiscated. For survival, he sold his treasured collection of 2,000 almanacs — spanning three centuries — for a pittance to the Goethe and Schiller Archive in Weimar. He fled in 1938.

His grandson Tomas Goldschmidt, who was a toddler when Arthur died in poverty in Bolivia in 1951, had no idea the collection had survived until he was contacted by the London- based Commission for Looted Art in Europe — 70 years after his grandfather’s escape. The commission traced him at the request of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar.

The library has since reached a restitution settlement with Goldschmidt and, just as importantly for him, helped to illuminate an era of family history. He described his first visit to see the almanacs in 2007.

“I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t touch those books, I couldn’t swallow,” he said over coffee in a Berlin cafe. “I felt so proud. It put my family in a new light. I never knew they were so wealthy and so educated. In South America my grandfather had nothing to live on — they were poor.”

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