Page 12 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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4
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
publishing houses, scholars, bibliophiles, and private families,
were proud possessors of large collections or of innumerable small
libraries. Valuable collections were also to be found in many
non-Jewish municipal, state, university and ecclesiastical libraries,
and in the possession of individuals. A complete computation of
this vast wealth of printed treasures is patently impossible.
We made a checklist of Jewish book collections in twenty
European countries occupied or controlled by the Nazis, or exposed
to Nazi bombing. Our calculation included only Jewish and a few
large non-Jewish collections like the Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam
and the Simonsensiana in Copenhagen. Only libraries containing
a minimum of 1,000 volumes were included in this survey.
There were 469 such libraries, with 3,307,000 volumes, in the
twenty European countries. The largest collections were in Poland
(251 libraries, 1,650,000 books), Germany (55 libraries, 422,000
books), the Nazi-occupied sections of the Soviet Union (7;
332,000), France (16; 146,000), Austria (19; 126,000), Hungary
(5; 76,000), the Netherlands (17; 74,000), Roumania (25; 69,000),
Lithuania (19; 67,000) and Czechoslovakia (8; 58,000). If the
numerous small libraries and private collections could be added,
the figures would probably aggregate five million or more books.
It may be assumed that of the approximately 1,500,000 Jewish
families comprising the 6,000,000 Jews killed during the Nazi
period, at least several books, religious and profane, in Hebrew,
Yiddish and other languages, were treasured in every Jewish home.
There is, however, no way of making an accurate estimate of
those stupendous cultural losses.
The diabolical forms of destruction inflicted by the Nazis were
diverse. During the first phase of their domination in 1933-38,
the Nazis were bent on outright destruction of Jewish books,
preferably by spectacular
auto-da-fes.
After they had seized power
in January, 1933, they initiated a savage campaign calling for the
burning of all “non-German books.” This included books by
liberal, democratic and leftist authors, and, of course, all books
written by Jews. The campaign culminated in raucous and
barbarous celebrations which drew wide-spread attention in the
free world and evoked severe condemnation in the press
(The
New York Times
, June 11, 1933). Hayyim N. Bialik, who was
still alive, articulated his lament in a touching poem entitled
twn n« NT* rD’N (379 'y .ftpn
,
2
'
2
Kml?r)
.3 .n '3nD *?j).
The implacable warfare against the Jewish book entered a new
phase in 1938, when several synagogues were wrecked in Munich,
Nuremberg and Dortmund. These hostile acts were the precursor
of the ominous Cristall Night of November 9-10, when one of the
worst pogroms in modern history was carried out by SA and SS