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Department of Provenance Research/Nazi Looted Assets

Provenance research at the Stabi

The Department of Provenance Research/Nazi Looted Assets at the Stabi is responsible for identifying and recording looted books, and striving to return them to the rightful owners or their heirs.

What is reviewed?

We determine whether the titles in question, as found in the acquisition books, are still in the Stabi’s holding. In a next step we check, based on the acquisition number, whether the recovered copy is really the looted book we are looking for and whether there are any ownership notes in the book, such as a bookplate, stamp, dedications or autographs which could indicate to whom the book once belonged.


Around two thirds of the Stabi's book holdings were burned during the allied bombing in the summer of 1943, including much of the looted assets. Particularly in the last few years of the war from 1943 to 1945, many acquisitions were no longer registered in the acquisition journals, i.e. it is no longer possible to determine when and how these books came into the Stabi and whether suspicious acquisitions were involved.

What happens to books that are found to have been looted?

If suspected loot is confirmed, we make the relevant information visible to you in the online catalogue. If references are found to the rightful owners of books that have been established as looted, these are scanned and links entered in the online catalogue.

Books where suspected loot is confirmed may only be viewed in the manuscript reading room so they are specially protected. Notification is also made to the national Lost Art Database.

If there is an ownership note, the search for the rightful owners or their heirs and the actual provenance research begins. The reconstruction of the biography of the previous owner starts with a name. All available sources must be consulted in archives, victim databases and commemorative books. Networking with other libraries is also important in order to trace and unite the holdings of former private libraries.

The aim is to return the books once the rightful owners or their heirs have been established.


The team

The academic librarian and historian Dr. Wiebke von Deylen is head of the Department of Provenance Research-Nazi Looted Books. Ulrike Preuß, who holds a degree in library and information science, is responsible for all library-related issues within the Department. Historian Anneke de Rudder deals with the different levels of provenance research.


Arbeitsstelle Provenienzforschung - NS-Raubgut

Anneke de Rudder / Dr. Wiebke von Deylen
E-Mail: nsraubgut@sub.uni-hamburg.de
Telefon: +49 40/42838-3348 / -2225
Telefax: +49 40/42838-3352