Beutekunst - Looted Books Part 1 of 4
Beutekunst (Looted Art): In summer 2008 discovered German Journalists a secret custody (archive)in Tiblissi (Tiflis), the Capital of Georgia. There are looted books in. War spoils from the World War 2. Now 63 Years later the the books are in a bad condition. Are the books saveable?
How did they come from Germany to Georgia?
Are they perhaps even valuable?
Many questions more. The answers u'll find next 3 parts of the film: Track of looted books. War spoils.
Authors: Nico Wingert and Jens-Uwe Korsowsky.
Camera: Marco Steinhoff, Director: Christoph Bigalke.
Producer: 0341 Buntfernsehen GmbH Leipzig
Tags: war spoils looted art looted books treasure World war 2 WW II Germany Georgia Tiblissi Tiflis books Marco Steinhoff secret depot Wolfgang Fruhauf Nico Wingert Jens-Uwe Korsowsky Halle (Saale) Berlin Bremen Hamburg Lubeck Boizenburg Stollberg Magdeburg Jena Dresden Leipzig Kriegsbeute 2. Weltkrieg Lost Art Kunstwerke Bucher Beutekunst Investigation Journalist journalism news history Geschichte Zeitgeschehen library Bibliothek USA Soviet Union Russia. Moscow Moskau
Added: 5 years ago
[the documentary crew and Doctor Wolfgang Fruhauf (chief conservationist at the Saxon State and University Library Dresden) are about to enter the secret depository room found underneath the Grigol Tsereteli Scientific Library in Tiblissi]
NARRATOR: [translated] The building of the old university is outside the town. The Uni-Library was closed outright. Now it's only used as a depository.
[cut to one of the female librarians at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (long red hair, brown dress) handing Doctor Fruhauf a key]
NARRATOR: [translated] That one of the keys like normally in the box hangs, isn't usual yet for a long time.
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf and members of the documentary crew putting on haz matsuits (in order to avoid mold and other airborne particles)]
NARRATOR: [translated] There was a secret ...
[cut to the librarian ("Tamar Nemsicverdize, Leiterin Bibliotheksdepot Tiflis") speaking directly to the camera]
TAMAR NEMSICVERDIZE: [translated] Our old library director has kept this secret until his death. Only he alone had the key for the depository. We knew nothing about it.
[cut to another shot of the librarian speaking directly to the camera]
TAMAR NEMSICVERDIZE: [translated] Only after his death in 2006, we discovered the secret archive. We were shocked when we saw the conditions of these books.
[cut to the crew making their way down to the depository]
NARRATOR: [translated] The depository is under the earth. Different walks and stairs lead there. The feeling to be able to get lost remained, like a little labyrinth.
[after climbing down several flights of stairs, the crew make their way down a dank poorly-lit hallway]
NARRATOR: [translated] What will we find? How valuable are these books? What will the expert Doctor Fruhauf say about the find? So many questions ...
[they enter the room, and find shelves upon shelves of old books covered in mold]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] So badly, I haven't imagined ...
[he puts on rubber gloves and a mask]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] Mold is problematic. There are over a thousand different types, but there is some few, these are highly poisonous. One can fall gravely ill ... Therefore the face-mask and the gloves to protect us.
[the camera pans across the shelves filled with books]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] Wow, that's unbelievable ...
NARRATOR: [translated] For over sixty years, the books have been left to themselves. In an air, replete of mold.
[Fruhauf and the crew begin taking down books and putting them into piles for inspection, as he turns to the camera and holds up one book practically caked in mold]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] These are bad results for this book.
[cut to more shots of the damaged books]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] This is already a large book treasure.
[cut to stock footage of World War II air raids]
NARRATOR: [translated] In 1943, during World War Two, British and American Allies did make bomb attacks against German cities. Out of fear of the bombs, many German libraries evacuated their books. The books were mainly brought to unused salt mines. For example, the world-famous library "Leopoldina" was stored in the mineshaft called "Georgi" in Wansleben, near the town of Halle/Saale. There, the books should survive the war. But the books have disappeared there, until today ...
[cut to footage of an open field]
NARRATOR: [translated] The salt mine in Wansleben today. Only a couple of bizarre rubble remind of the former potash support. The shaft for getting in has been sealed with a concrete plate for forty years.
[cut to a man walking through the field]
NARRATOR: [translated] Heinz Scharf has seen the books as a fourteen-year-old boy at the end of the war.
[cut to the man speaking directly to the camera]
HEINZ SCHARF: [translated] I have come here in the late evening in 1945. It was weird, and there were big underground halls. There was not much more to see, only some old books. These were the books of the Leopoldina, the famous academy in Halle. One talked about twelve thousand books at that time. But who has taken the books away from the salt mine? No one knows.
[cut back to Doctor Fruhauf in the depository, as he is looking over more books]
NARRATOR: [translated] Back to Tiblissi, Georgia, in the depository.
[Fruhauf opens one book and reads from the title page]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] "Book of 1656. Published in Halle."
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf looking through more books, stamped with various seals from German libraries]
NARRATOR: [translated] Already at our first journey in summer 2008 to Georgi, we had discovered stamps of the Leopoldina and others.
[cut to one of the male librarians at the Leopoldina German Academy of Sciences (balding, glasses, dark suit and tie) sitting in his office, looking at footage taken of the books from the depository]
NARRATOR: [translated] At this time, we showed the pictures from the depository to the head librarian of the Leopoldina, Jochen Thamm.
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] This is already an intense mold.
[cut to the male librarian ("Jochen Thamm, Chefbibliothekar Leopoldina Halle") speaking directly to the camera]
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] If one sees the books so near and clearly in the film, this is already shattering, that the books are handled so. The volumes must be saved as fast as possible, in order to control the mold. These books must be available again, we are still missing sixty eight hundred valuable books.
[cut to various shots of the Leopoldina library]
NARRATOR: [translated] Further German libraries miss their books, like the Leopoldina, since the end of the war. If the books still exist somewhere, and where they remain today, is still unsolved ... until now.
[cut to stock footage of soldiers marching from World War II]
NARRATOR: [translated] May until July 1945, the Soviets take over East German areas according to the agreements of the Americans. With the Russian army, art experts and librarians arrive in East Germany. They are looking for objects of art and valuable books, specifically. What they collected was regarded as their war spoils. The trophy brigade of the Red Army didn't prove only exquisite collecting mania in the area of art and took it also along. Valuable paintings and millions of books changed owners by order of Stalin.
[stock footage of Stalin is shown]
NARRATOR: [translated] For the Soviet Union, this shall be the only compensation for losses suffered during the War in their homeland. Hitler had ordered his German generals the systematic destruction of Russian culture, so the Tsar Palace was destroyed and the world famous Amber Room stolen. Tolstoi's residential building was looted, and Russian libraries robbed.
[stock footage of Russian soldiers looking through piles of books is shown]
NARRATOR: [translated] So, the confiscation of the German books by the Red Army was like a natural result of the War for the Russians. Stalin had reclaimed already extensive concessions from the Allies for reparations at the meeting in Teheran, 1944.
[stock footage of trains is shown]
NARRATOR: [translated] So Stalin let his Army load up train after train, and tens of millions of books are sent on their way to the Soviet Union.
[cut to the head librarian carrying several piles of old books through the Leopoldina library]
NARRATOR: [translated] Also, the books of the Leopoldina in Halle have disappeared this way. Since 1945, only some single books were found again. But rather by chance, and sporadic ...
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] We see here some books which have come back in different ways
[he points to one pile of books on the table]
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] These books could've been taken directly from the shaft in 1946 ...
[he points to another pile of books]
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] This returns from Georgia in 1996 ...
[he points to another pile of books]
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] This is a confiscation of smugglers at the German-Polish border in 1998 ...
[he points to another pile of books]
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] This is a return from Armenia, 1998 to 2000 ...
[he points to a large book on the table]
JOCHEN THAMM: [translated] And here is a book that had appeared on the German second-hand market, which we were able to get back.
[cut back to Doctor Fruhauf in the depository, inspecting more books]
NARRATOR: [translated] Back in Tiblissi in the depository, many books lie by chance and unorderly in the shelves in Tiblissi. Where did the books come from?
[the camera focuses on one of the books with a German library stamp]
NARRATOR: [translated] It becomes clear, books arrived here from many different libraries of Germany. The property stamps refer to Hannover, Lubeck, Bremen, Berlin, Magdeburg, Meiningen, Halle ... These are books which had disappeared without trace out of the German libraries over sixty years ago.
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf ("Experte fur Bucherhaltung") walking amongst the bookshelves in the depository, attempting to make a count of how many volumes are actually stored there]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] My first impression was that up to thirty thousand books are here. After I have counted shelf for shelf now, however, we start out from at least one hundred thousand books now. This is a very large treasure!
[stock footage of the Russian landscape is shown]
NARRATOR: [translated] The books were divided up between Leningrad and Moscow once. The Russians were overtaxed fast. What to do with ten million books, and in German as well? Therefore, in the Fifties, many books were sent to Armenia, Ukraine, and to Georgia. That's how the books landed in this depository.
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf examining another book]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] This is the Old Testament in Dutch.
[he points at the copyright date on the title page]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] This book is in good condition ... "Amsterdam, 1721."
[one of his assistants points to a stamp on the following page]
ASSISTANT: [translated] There is a Georgian stamp ...
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] All books are stamped in Georgia in 1952.
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf examining a particularly large book]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] Here is a big splendid volume ... This is a great delight for me! It is the first volume belonging to Saxony.
NARRATOR: [translated] A still unknown number of books reached Georgia in 1952. Again and again, we pulled books out of shelves which surprised us.
[Doctor Fruhauf reads from the title page of the book]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] "Dedicated to the Saxon king August the Strong. In Naples, 1752" ... This is a very valuable book.
NARRATOR: [translated] So, how valuable are the books here?
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] One can only say exactly how valuable the books are if one takes every single book in his hand. But because mainly old books lie here, of which there are only a few copies, one can start out from there. On can say that this complete collection of books ... might have a value of up to twenty or thirty million Euro.
NARRATOR: [translated] An impressive value for books which are strewed in the majority with mold. What can be saved? What is lost forever?
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf using an electronic thermometer to gauge the atmospheric conditions in the depository]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] The atmospheric humidity is more than sixty three perecent. This is critical.
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf looking through more damaged books]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] The book cover is in bad condition, but the contents are in good condition. This seems to the complete book stock.
[cut to Dr. Fruhauf addressing the camera]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] I think that ten percent of these cannot be saved, the mildew has reached inside the book. But the remaining books could be useable after atomic radiation.
[various shots of the damaged books are shown]
NARRATOR: [translated] The spores of mold are killed with gamma radiation. A treatment with gamma radiation costs about one or two Euro for every book ... but the books still lie here in Tiflis. However, the librarian suddenly has a piece of good news.
[cut back to the Tbilisi State University librarian speaking directly to the camera]
TAMAR NEMSICVERDIZE: [translated] We will give back the books to Germany in autumn 2009 ...
[cut to a shot of Tiblissi at night]
NARRATOR: [translated] That the books will come back after over sixty years now looks like a sign of the times. In the evening, we sort out our thoughts again.
[cut to Doctor Fruhauf and the documentary crew having dinner in a restaurant named "KGB Still Watching You"]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] I wouldn't have expected such a book treasure. We have found here over a hundred thousand books. I wouldn't have expected this, because Georgia had already given back a hundred thousand books in 1996.
[cut to another shot of Doctor Fruhauf speaking on the collection]
WOLFGANG FRUHAUF: [translated] After this find, I suspect that we will also find books in the Ukraine, White Russia, Azerbaijan, and in Armenia.
Die Spur der Bucher ("The Track of Looted Books")
Consignment of 16 December 2008
The natural history of Nicolaus Kopernicus, works of Paracelsus, Kepler, and Giordano Bruno - priceless tomes of these volumes from the Leopoldina in Halle, as thousands of other books from the collections of several German libraries after the war the end of 1945 disappeared. In July 2008 discovered a camera team of the MDR after years of research in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia is a huge secret underground depot located under the Grigol Tsereteli Scientific Library (Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University), with tens of thousands of these books from German libraries - until then untraceable believed looted art. And there are references to other such secret accounts in other capitals of former Soviet republics.
The condition of the books is partly unsalvagable. Full mold, damp, and the decay left forgotten. Even the Georgian librarians for decades knew nothing of the treasure slowly rotting in their cellars. But what will come from this sensational find? How many books can be saved and how many are lost for ever? Will they return to Germany? And above all: who are they anyway? Only a few copies can be stamped by their clearly to a previous match.