In the decades after the war, some of the survivors who had been persecuted reclaimed their libraries. Between 1945 and 1969, eleven requests from private individuals or institutions are documented in the files of the Stabi, which were addressed to the Stabi regarding the search for looted property. In some of these cases, after lengthy negotiations, the heirs were awarded compensation for the loss of the libraries. In 1957, the Stabi returned the library of the Jewish community of Hamburg, which had been seized by the Gestapo in 1939.
An active and systematic search by the Stabi for looted books in its holdings began in 2005. Since 2006, a systematic review of the acquisition journals of the Stabi has taken place for acquisitions suspected of being looted. In these journals, all books purchased or acquired as gifts are recorded with author, title, year of publication, the person or institution who donated or sold them and a consecutive number (the acquisition number). After looking at the journals for the years 1940–1944, the investigations were extended to donations of gifted books from the years 1933–1951, and to antiquarian acquisitions, and relevant archival material was included in the search for looted holdings.
The Stabi presented the results in three exhibitions ("Looted books. The books of Marie May Reiss", 2009, and "Altogether much appreciated…", 2012, and "'Schädlich und unerwünscht' verbotene Literatur und NS-Raubgut in der Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky") and gave the Hamburg public an insight into the library's provenance research. Since 2018, research also includes the Special Collections, in a project funded by the German Lost Art Foundation
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