The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance
It’s hard to overstate just how much the brief reign of the Nazis changed the world. They decimated entire populations, brought an appalling efficiency and ingenuity to mass murder, and reshaped geopolitics for decades to come. Indeed, we are still dealing with the aftermath of their actions.
The Book Thieves casts an important light on an underreported consequence of the Holocaust: millions of stolen books confiscated from Jewish citizens. You hear plenty about art and property, but nothing about books, even though they played a key part in the Nazis’ attempt to not only wipe out the contemporary Jewish population but to wipe them entirely from history, going so far as to use their books against them to add credibility to lunatic conspiracies and a campaign of genocide. This is the story of the frightening mobilization of ideology against a people, of weaponizing the past itself.
Rydell explores those who are trying to right this monstrous wrong, and along the way he discovers unexpected collaborators: librarians in the decades that followed who tried to cover up that their libraries held stolen books, the fruits of Nazi extermination.
The Book Thieves is a haunting reminder of the power of the written word.
Anders Rydell • Henning Koch, Translator