Page 98 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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posed of the copper plates of the famous Rom publishing house in
a similar commercial deal. Pohl’s assistants were even more un­
scrupulous in their transactions. One of them, Sparkett, dumped
five cases of rare books and manuscripts from a transport prepared
for shipment to Berlin, in order to make room for a black market
shipment of hogs.
The Jewish employees of the ERR, some of them connected
with the Vilna underground, tried to save as many manuscripts and
books as possible. Risking their lives, they concealed the most valu­
able items and smuggled them, one by one, out of the closely
watched YIVO building. Many of the salvaged cultural treasures
were buried in safe hideouts in the Ghetto. After the war some
were restored to the Jewish Museum in Vilna and others were sent
to Jewish institutions the world over.
Many libraries were destroyed and looted also in Kovno. Soon
after the German invasion, the books in the famous Mapu Library
were publicly burned. The ceremony was witnessed by high Ger­
man officials, while a military band played and Storm Troopers
danced around the fire. The vandalism of those early days, howev­
er, gave way to a lucrative business pattern. Dr. Gotthardt, aided
by Dr. Giselher Wirsing and other experts, took charge of the
ERR in Kovno and proclaimed aJewish “book action” in February,
1942. The most valuable books were transported to Germany, and
the remainder was turned over for pulp to a paper mill.
These exploits did not sate the avarice of the ERR. In May,
1941, Wilhelm Grau suggested in a memorandum to Alfred
Rosenberg that the ERR activities ought to be extended to Spain,
Italy, Roumania, Hungary and Slovakia. Three years later, after
Hungary had come under the heel of the Nazis, Dr. Gerhard
Utikal, ERR chief of staff and author of the slanderous
, dispatched a special unit (Sonder-Kommando) headed
by Dr. Zeiss to confiscate Jewish books, archives and art treasures
in Hungary. The Jewish libraries suffered not only from these rov­
ing pillagers, but also from domestic Hungarian Nazi rogues and
from periodic bombing. The Nazi-sponsored “Institute for Study
of the Jewish Question” amassed a considerable library from books