Archives destroyed in the twentieth century



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LOST MEMORY - LIBRARIES AND


ARCHIVES DESTROYED


IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY


Recommended catalogue entry:

Memory of the World: Lost Memory - Libraries and Archives destroyed in the Twentieth Century / prepared for UNESCO on behalf of IFLA by Hans van der Hoeven and on behalf of ICA by Joan van Albada. - Paris : UNESCO, 1996. - ii, 70 pp. ; 30 cm. - (CII-96/WS/1)

I - van der Hoeven, Hans

II - van Albada, Joan

III - UNESCO. General Information Programme and UNISIST

@ UNESCO, 1996



PREFACE i
Every year, precious fragments, if not whole chunks of the world documentary heritage, disappear through "natural" causes: acidified paper that crumbles to dust, leather, parchment, film and magnetic tape attacked by light, heat, humidity or dust. As well as natural causes, accidents regularly afflict libraries and archives. Floods, fires, hurricanes, storms, earthquakes... the list goes on of disasters which are difficult to guard against except by taking preventive measures. Every year, treasures are destroyed by fire and other extreme weather conditions such as cyclones, monsoons.
It would take a very long time to compile a list of all the libraries and archives destroyed or seriously damaged by acts of war, bombardment and fire, whether deliberate or accidental. No list has yet been drawn up of the holdings or collections already lost or endangered. The Library of Alexandria is probably the most famous historical example, but how many other known and unknown treasures have vanished in Constantinople, Warsaw, Florence, or more recently in Bucharest, Saint Petersburg and Sarajevo? Sadly the list cannot be closed. There are so many more, not to mention holdings dispersed following the accidental or deliberate displacement of archives and libraries.
The present document, prepared within the framework of the "Memory of the World" Programme, under contract with ICA and IFLA, by J. van Albada and H. van der Hoeven, is an attempt to list major disasters that have destroyed or caused irreparable damage during this century to libraries and archives, whether written or audiovisual. The most endangered carriers are not necessarily the oldest. In the audio domain substantial numbers of acetate discs and tapes are lost each year. The world of film was the first to become aware of the decay of the polymers used to record sounds and images.
War, in particular the two world wars, caused considerable losses, numerous libraries and archives have been destroyed or badly damaged in the course of fighting, notably in France, Germany, Italy and Poland. War has also been the source of untold destruction to libraries and archives in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Shelling by gunners of the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina started a fire that burned down the building and destroyed most of the collections. Many books in the library had been salvaged from collections in libraries that were damaged during World War II.
This document is not meant to be a sort of funerary monument, but is intended to alert public opinion and sensitize the professional community and local and national authorities to the disappearance of archival and library treasures of inestimable value and to draw attention to the urgent need to safeguard endangered documentary heritage all over the world. Librarians and archivists work hard to anticipate and prevent disasters affecting their holdings. Yet, even as the end of the 20th century approaches, it appears that documentary heritage housed in the world's libraries and archives always remains at risk. Let us move into the 21st century with renewed commitment to protecting the "Memory of the World" through disaster planning, through vigilance and through the pursuit of world peace.

Abdelaziz ABID, Division of the General Information Programme

The designations employed and the presentation of the material throughout this document do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or regarding its frontiers and boundaries.
Comments and suggestions regarding this document, as well as the "Memory of the World" Programme as a whole, are welcome and should be addressed to the Division of the General Information Programme, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 PARIS CEDEX 15.

ii
CONTENT



PREFACE i

PART I - LIBRARIES
1 Introduction 1
2 The destruction of libraries in the twentieth century 2
3 List of libraries and collections damaged or destroyed 7


PART II - ARCHIVES
1 Foreword 19
2 Introduction 20
3 Collection of data 22
4 Reported causes of destruction and damage 26

4.1 Introduction 26

4.2 Findings 26
5 Implemented preventive measures 32

5.1 Introduction 32

5.2 Findings 32
6 Intended preventive measures 37

6.1 Introduction 37

6.2 Findings 37
7 Threats to archive collections 40
8 Categories of endangered archive collections 43
9 Safeguarding the archival heritage 44
10 Notes 45

Appendices

1 Questionnaire 47

2 List of repositories reporting losses 49



3 Examples of reported destroyed or damaged collections 57


PART I - LIBRARIES
1 Introduction
At the request of IFLA the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands) has prepared a list of libraries destroyed in the course of the twentieth century. This list is part of UNESCO's 'Memory of the World' Programme. It is based on desk research by Dr. Hans van der Hoeven. In contrast to the list of destroyed archives prepared under the auspices of ICA, the list of libraries is the product of bibliographical research and documentary study only. As far as possible, the list of libraries presents data under the same headings the list of archives does, e.g. damage to institutions and collections as the result of either accidental or wilful destruction (fire, arson, water damage, war damage etc.). More insidious causes of decay, such as the impact of climate and the work of insects have not been considered. Theft and 'everyday' vandalism by library patrons have also not been taken into account, even though it is clear that all these factors can cause serious damage to collections as well.
The list is based on a literature search in LISA (Library and Information Science Abstracts) and other bibliographical sources, while the Koninklijke Bibliotheek's collection in this field also furnished many references. Owing to the nature of the available sources and limitations of language, it is inevitable that the list is somewhat weighted and that Western libraries are more fully represented than those from other areas of the world. Entries are followed by references to relevant literature. Presentation of data is in chronological order and by country. Where data are available the nature and extent of the damage have been indicated.
The list is mostly restricted to major research libraries because it is not possible to make a complete list of all private or public libraries that have been destroyed. Moreover, most public libraries do not hold collections that can be considered irreplaceable. The list therefore devotes most attention to national and university libraries and other scholarly libraries as far as data could be found. Although this is not an exhaustive survey, the extent of the damage can fairly accurately be gathered from the data presented. The majority of cases derives from the Second World War, which remains the century's most destructive event. Generally speaking, man's destructive tendencies as shown during war and political upheavals can be said to have caused more destruction than natural disasters, as is clear from the introductory essay.
Libraries and archives are different institutions: while all archive material is in a sense 'unique', this is hardly true as far as library collections are concerned. Only a small part (manuscripts etc.) can be considered unique, although obviously many printed works survive in a very small number of copies and damage to a collection is therefore often quite as disastrous as the disappearance of archive material.

2 THE DESTRUCTION OF LIBRARIES IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

In 1880 the printer and bibliographer William Blades published The Enemies of Books. Among the enemies he described are fire, water, gas and heat, dust, ignorance and bookbinders. This catalogue of horrors is a recurring nightmare for booklovers all over the world and it cannot be denied that these 'enemies' are as powerful today as ever were before. The accumulation of books in this century and the continuing threats to the collections have made librarians more aware than ever that measures must be taken to preserve our written heritage.


The diverse nature of the 'enemies' makes it hard to check or fight them. Blades restricted himself mostly to accidental or natural causes of decay, like age, neglect and the destructive work of insects. But harmful as these are, they sometimes fall short of wilful actions designed to cause damage. This is especially true of arson and destruction in war time. Moreover, hatred of books has always been a powerful motive to destroy them. In 213 BC the Ch'in emperor Shih Huang-ti ordered the first recorded burning of books and his motives have a very familiar ring: books allegedly contained nothing but idle speculation and only excited people to criticize the government. However frail the material on which it is written or printed, the written word has always been regarded as having power over the minds of men and many rulers have seen fit to follow Shih Huang's example in burning, banishing and destroying books and their authors.
Yet, our intellectual and cultural heritage is mostly preserved in written form: books, periodicals and manuscripts constitute the collective 'Memory of the World'. Other than our individual memories, they span the generations and the centuries. Whether written on vellum, paper or palm leaves, they preserve knowledge that man has gathered over the ages. Much has been destroyed or has vanished without trace. Much also has been preserved, sometimes in an almost miraculous way. One thinks of those scraps of papyrus found in the Egyptian desert, which often provide the sole surviving evidence of Greek literary works. Much of the earliest written texts have come down to us in similar fortuitous ways and these texts are now carefully preserved as unique testimonies of ancient times. But even printed works from a much later date are often preserved in a single copy only. Recently the Dutch National Library (the Koninklijke Bibliotheek),was fortunate enough to acquire a few hitherto unknown books by a religious sect. The books had been hidden among the beams of an attic in the sixteenth century and had only recently come to light.
Whether they fortuitously emerge after many centuries or whether they have always been jealously guarded as national heirlooms, books and manuscripts have had a decisive influence on the way civilizations have developed and librarians all over the world are justifiably proud of the treasures that have been entrusted to them. Although essential to our civilization, this heritage is nevertheless constantly under threat: materials are fragile and decay. This is true even for modern books. Since the second half of the nineteenth century, much of the paper used for printing is of inferior quality and bound to become brittle within a few decades. Moreover, even if it is true that our libraries are overflowing with books, never before in the history of mankind has there been a century as destructive to books as the twentieth. Two World Wars and numerous armed conflicts have exacted their toll, many totalitarian regimes have purged libraries of publications and what is left is often damaged by water or fire.
From its inception, UNESCO has been confronted with the need to preserve the world's cultural and intellectual heritage. It was founded when the ruins and the destruction caused by World War II were still very much in evidence. In 1949, Suzanne Briet, a conservator at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, published a report on Bibliothèques en détresse (Libraries in distress). This inventory of the damage caused by the war was published by UNESCO. At the time, the Organization was primarily concerned with rebuilding libraries and restocking them. Since that time, many other disasters have hit the library world and in many cases no effort has been spared to compensate for the losses.
It has become clear that replacement (wherever possible) and preservation of unique material is only one way to take care of this heritage. Of course, restoration of what has been damaged remains an important means of preserving texts for posterity. But modern techniques now provide viable alternatives of preserving the written word. Microfilming has progressed rapidly since it was first put into use and nowadays texts and pictures can be digitized and made accessible in a variety of ways (on line databases, CD-ROM etc.).
Today, librarians are very much aware of these problems. In many countries they are now actively engaged in preservation programmes, but it has to be conceded that a universal panacea has not yet been found. Also, microfilming and other preservation options are costly affairs and with governments hard pressed for money it is far from easy to obtain adequate funding for these projects. To complicate matters even further, modern techniques of copying and digitizing information do not allow us to dispense with preservation of the original copies.
UNESCO is now actively engaged in promoting the preservation of documentary heritage through its 'Memory of the World' Programme. To illustrate the urgency of this programme, it is good to reflect on what has been irrevocably lost. With this in mind, a list has been prepared of libraries and collections that have been destroyed or seriously damaged in the course of this century. Inevitably, it makes sad reading to see how many millions of books have been lost in the twentieth century alone. Among the losses are many precious manuscripts and other irreplaceable documents and material. Furthermore, there is no help against the destructive forces of nature: you cannot stop an earthquake or a flood, but it is a sad reflection on mankind that the most grievous losses have generally been the result of human action, whether through carelessness or through wilful destruction.
A few examples will suffice to illustrate the way things have been and what has been lost. If we go back to World War I (1914-1918) one vivid example springs to mind, the destruction of the Library of the University of Louvain, in Belgium, as a result of the German invasion. Within a few hours over 300,000 books as well as many precious manuscripts and incunabula were all reduced to ashes. After the war, many countries provided funds and books to help rebuild the library, without being able to compensate for the loss of irreplaceable manuscripts, of course. Yet fate proved singularly unkind to this library, for during World War II it was again destroyed by enemy action, the result of another German invasion.
Political upheavals have often created a frustrating situation for librarians and citizens in general. Consider the case of the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which in 1918 had regained their independence after centuries of Russian occupation? As a result of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact of 1940, they were once more occupied by Russian troops and in 1940 bookstores and libraries were 'cleansed' and unwelcome titles were burned. In 1941 Nazi Germany conquered these countries, only to be driven out once more by the Soviet army in 1944-1945. These succeeding regimes brought not only an appalling waste of human lives, but also rapidly alternating prohibitions of books, purging of libraries and the rewriting of history and textbooks.
If many countries in Europe have been hit very hard as a result of World War II (1939-1945), many countries in Asia have suffered losses on an equal scale. China has been particularly unfortunate: first, as a result of the Sino-Japanese war which started in 1937, hundreds of thousands of books were lost. After the communist take-over, libraries were purged of 'reactionary, obscene and absurd' publications. This, in its turn, proved only the prelude to the wholesale destruction of books during the Cultural Revolution of the sixties. A comparable frenzy of destroying all politically 'incorrect' books (and, it sometimes seemed, all books) took place in Cambo­dia, following the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge in 1976. And, very recently, a BBC documentary showed the destruction of libraries in Afghanistan, after the capital Kabul had been the scene of intense fighting between different factions.
Moreover, while the losses of European and American libraries are usually fairly well known, often it can not be estimated just how many books and manuscripts have perished during upheavals caused by the Cultural Revolution in China or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Nobody has kept score of the destruction. All these losses might give rise to some bitter reflections on man as a political and destructive animal. It sometimes seems as if in 1920 the poet William Butler Yeats had already summed up the century in his 'The second coming':
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.
But, if it is true that books and libraries have suffered at the hands of men, it is equally true that nature has shown its destructive side as well. One thinks of the earthquake which did such heavy damage to Japan in 1923, including the destruction of 700,000 volumes of the Imperial University Library in Tokyo. Among the losses were records of the Tokugawa Government and many manuscripts and old prints. World wide distress was also caused when the river Arno in Italy flooded library basements in Florence. More than 2 million books suffered water damage and restoration is still under way.
In some cases, an ironic twist of fate seems to be reserved for libraries and collections. In 1946, a flood damaged books stored in the cellars of the former Royal and Provincial Library in Hanover, Germany. The irony of the case was that only recently had the library's most precious books and manuscripts been recovered from storage during the war and placed in these cellars. Similarly, in 1966, a fire did serious damage to the Jewish Theological Seminary Library in New York. Many books that had been shipped to the US to keep them from the hands of the nazis were thus destroyed after all. A double irony, perhaps, is that many Jewish books in Europe only survived the war because the German National-Socialist Party had brought them together for 'study' purposes after the war.
Not all damage to collections is equally disastrous. A small public library in a big city may have a very useful function, but its loss can fairly easily be repaired. Larger libraries often hold irreplaceable collections, even if individual items are not always rare or unique. Of course, size is not all: especially in the developing countries, smaller libraries sometimes provide the only library facilities and they are often the sole repository of the nation's historically important documents and publications. Apart from the national and university libraries, a wealth of material is also to be found elsewhere. One needs only to glance through the World Guide to Special Libraries published by K.G. Saur (2nd edition, 1990) to gain an impression of the richness and variety of collections all over the world.
In view of the importance of the subject, it is surprising how little has been written about it. Many studies have been devoted to the decline of the Alexandria Library in antiquity, but what has been described as 'the biggest single library disaster in this century' hardly rates more than a few lines in a specialised library periodical. I refer to the fire that damaged or destroyed about 3,6 million books in the former Soviet Union's Academy of Sciences Library in Leningrad in 1988. This is one of the problems in drawing up a list of libraries that have been destroyed in this century. While many losses in the Western world can be fairly accurately described, other disasters often merit no more than a passing reference in a library handbook or a general history. Library historians apparently are not much inclined to study what has been lost, yet this is a subject that the world can hardly afford to ignore. It reminds us how fragile a thing our intellectual and cultural heritage really is and it is an incentive to all concerned to further appropriate measures to preserve as much as is humanly possible for future generations.

Hans van der Hoeven

Koninklijke Bibliotheek

The Hague, The Netherlands



List of publications quoted more than once

Borsa I. Borsa, Archives in Japan, Journal of the Society of Archivists 7(1984)287-294


Briet Suzanne Briet, Bibliothèques en détresse. Paris, 1949
Büch Boudewijn Büch, Boekenpest. Amsterdam, 1988.
ELI Encyclopaedia of Library and Information Science. New York etc.,

1968-1994. 53 vols


Goetz A.H. Goetz, Books in peril... Wilson Library Bulletin 47(1972-73) 428- 439
Johnson E.D. Johnson, A history of libraries in the Western world. New York etc., 1965
G. Leyh Die deutschen wissenschaftlichen Bibliotheken nach dem Krieg.

Tübingen, 1947


LJ Library Journal
Russell J.R. Russell, Libraries under Fire, ALA Bulletin 35(1941)277-281
Ting Lee-hsia Hsu Ting, Library services in the People's Republic of China, in Library Quarterly 53(1983)134-160
WLB Wilson Library Bulletin

3 LIST OF LIBRARIES AND COLLECTIONS DAMAGED OR DESTROYED

1904 Italy, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino
In January, a fire started in the Library, resulting in very serious damage to its Manuscripts Department. Irreparable damage was done to some of the most renowned treasures, including Ciceronian palimpsests, the Codex Theodosianus and the Duke the Berry's 'Libro d'ore'

Manoscritti danneggiati nell'incendio del 1904 (Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino). Torino, 1986


1914 Belgium, Library of the Catholic University of Louvain
Following the German invasion of Belgium at the beginning of the First World War, German soldiers set fire to the library on August 25. Within a few hours, over 300,000 volumes, about 1,000 incunabula, hundreds of manuscripts and the university's recent archives were all reduced to ashes.

ELI vol. 2, p. 310


1923 Japan
In September, an earthquake and the resulting fires did heavy damage to libraries and archives. The Imperial University Library in Tokyo was destroyed and most of its contents, amounting to about 700,000 volumes, was lost. These included the Records of Counties and Villages of the l9th century, Official Records of the Tokugawa Government, the Max Muller Library of books on languages and religions, the Nishimura and Hoshino Libraries (both centring on Chinese philosophy and history). Also destroyed were many manuscripts, picture scrolls and old prints. The Cabinet Library lost 70,000 volumes

First Report on the Reconstruction of the Tokyo Imperial University Library. Tokyo, 1926; Borsa, 291


1931 Nicaragua, Biblioteca Nacional
An earthquake caused considerable damage to the library. A second earthquake in 1972 reduced most of its stock.

B.M. Pelling, Biblioteksbladet 69(1984)124-126


1932 Spain, University of Valencia Library
A disastrous fire severely damaged the library during the Spanish Civil War.

Johnson, 182


1933, 1935 Germany
After the Nazi seizure of power, a number of public library officials prepared black lists of prohibited authors, amounting to about 10% of public library collections. These also paved the way for the public burning of books on May 10, 1933. A further list of 5,500 prohibited books was prepared in 1935. Many of these books were destroyed.

W. Jütte, Volksbibliotheke im Naztionalsozialismus, Buch und Bibliothek 39 (1987)345-348



1937-1945 China, losses during the Sino-Japanese War
A great many private and public libraries were destroyed. The most important losses were:
National University of Tsing Hua, Peking. Lost 200,000 out of a collection of 350,000 volumes; the card catalogue also destroyed
University Nan-k'ai, T'ien-chin. Complete destruction as a result of bombing in July 1937. More than 224,000 volumes were lost
Institute of Technology of He-pei, T'ien-chin. Completely destroyed by bombs
Medical College of He-pei, Pao-ting. Completely destroyed by bombs
Agricultural College of He-pei, Pao-ting. Completely destroyed by bombs
University Ta Hsia, Shang-hai. Completely destroyed by bombs
University Kuang Hua, Shang-hai. Completely destroyed by bombs
National University of Hu-nan. Completely destroyed by bombs
University of Nanking. 10% of collections disappeared after 1939. Probably transferred to Japan, together with the card catalogue
Royal Asiatic Society, Shang-hai. Collections transferred to Tokyo after 1939
University of Shang-hai. 27% of collections in Western languages disappeared after 1939, as well as 40% of collections of works in Chinese. Probably transferred to Japan. Many other books damaged by water
Soochow University. More than 30% of the most important books disappeared during Japanese occupation 1937-1939

R. Pelissier, Les bibliothèques en Chine pendant la première moitié du XXe siècle. Paris etc., 1971, esp. p. 143-146; Briet, 22; Russell, 281


1937 United States
Hundreds of libraries in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois and Mississippi were destroyed by floods

Büch, 31
1938-1945 Czechoslovakia


After the Munich Conference of 1938, Czechoslovakia was robbed of a great section of territory, the Sudetenland. Soon afterwards, all Czech books in libraries in this territory dealing with geography, biography and history were confiscated, together with the works of many Czech writers. Many books were burned, collections were totally destroyed or sent to Germany. After the German occupation of the remaining part of the country, Prague National and University Library lost 25,000, mostly art books. The collections of the Library of the Faculty of Natural Sciences were completely dispersed and destroyed, including the card catalogue. Many other libraries suffered severe losses, including treasures like the Slavata Bible, seven codices of the ancient library of Jan Hodejovsky and many others. Total losses of books, manuscripts and incunabula were estimated at 2,000,000 volumes.

L.J. Zivny, LJ 71(1946)877-878; Briet, p. 20


1939-1945 Poland
After the German occupation of Poland, the Germans embarked upon a policy of ruthless destruction of Polish libraries, archives and museums. In 1939 the Western provinces were occupied and they lost nearly all their public and private libraries. In Poznan, the Raczynski Library and the Science Society Library were destroyed. The Cathedral Library with its unique collection of incunabula was burned. After the Germans occupied all of Poland, nearly all Polish libraries suffered losses of collections and catalogues. In October 1944, the National Library in Warsaw was completely destroyed, with the loss of about 700,000 volumes, including almost all manuscripts and older printed works as well as the print, music and map collections. The Central Military Library, containing 350,000 books on the history of Poland, was totally wrecked, including the Rapperswil Library deposited there for safekeeping (60,000 volumes on Polish nineteenth century émigrés, and the Krasinski Library. On the eve of the German evacuation of Poland in January 1945, the main stacks of the Warsaw Public Library were burned. Many other books were taken to Germany and were only partially recovered after the war. According to one estimate, 15 million out of 22,5 million volumes in Polish libraries were destroyed.

Briet, p.21; Helena Bilinska, LJ 71(1946)1022-1023, 1034; Biblioteka narodowa w latach 1945-1956. Warszawa, 1958; The National Library in Warsaw. Warsaw, 1974, p.1


1939-1945 Poland, Jewish Libraries
As soon as the Germans had invaded Poland they formed 'Brenn-Kommandos' (arson-squads) to destroy Jewish synagogues and books. Thus the Great Talmudic Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Lublin was burned. The remainder of this library, about 24,000 volumes, was later shipped to Germany together with hundreds of thousands other Jewish books from private or public collections. A large part of these were destroyed by air raids, especially in Berlin. Of the books that remained in Poland, many were either pulped or burned.

Jacqueline Borin, Libraries & Culture 28(1993)445-460


1939-1945 Germany
The Second World War proved disastrous for German libraries. Millions of books have been lost, although many of the most precious works have been preserved by storage elsewhere; it has been estimated that a third of all German books were destroyed. The most important losses occurred at:
Aachen The Library of the Technical University lost 50,000 volumes stored elsewhere for safekeeping, in July 1943. These included all journals and serial works before 1935, doctoral dissertations and precious illustrated works.
Berlin The Staatsbibliothek (National Library) lost about 2 million volumes. The University Library lost about 20,000 volumes. Many library collections were stored elsewhere, but severe damage was done to the Stadtbibliothek (Municipal Library), the Library of the Reichstag (almost completely destroyed), the Deutsche Heeresbücherei (Library of the German Army) and many other specialized libraries.
Bonn The University Library lost 25% of its collections.
Bremen The Staatsbibliothek lost about 150,000 volumes, especially rare and precious works, early illustrated books, 2,000 separate prints, sets of journals and many bibliographical works.
Darmstadt The Hessische Landesbibliothek was destroyed by fire when Darmstadt was bombed in September 1944. About 760,000 volumes were lost, including 2,217 incunabula and 4,500 manuscripts. The Library of the Technical University lost two thirds of its collection.
Dortmund The Stadt- und Landesbibliothek (Municipal and State Library) lost 250,000 out of 320,000 volumes, among which the patent and the historical map collection.
Dresden The Sächsische Landesbibliothek was destroyed by bombs in February and March 1945; about 300,000 volumes were lost. In the fires following the air raid of February 1945 the Stadtbibliothek (Municipal Library) lost the reference collection as well as 200,000 other volumes and 12,000 volumes of the Library of the Verein für Erdkunde (Geographical Society). The card catalogues were partially lost.
Essen The Stadtbücherei (Municipal Library) lost three quarters of its collection, about 130,000 volumes, including parts of the catalogues.
Frankfurt The Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek (Municipal and University Library) lost

a.M. 550,000 volumes and 440,000 doctoral dissertations as a result of air raids, as well as 750,000 patents.



Giessen The University Library lost nine tenths of its collection.
Greifswald The University Library lost 17,000 volumes plus 1,900 manuscripts.
Hamburg The Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek was destroyed by bombs in 1943 and 1944. Two thirds of the collection were lost, more than 600,000 volumes, with catalogues and reference works. The Commerz-Bibliothek (Commercial Library) lost 174,000 out of 188,000 volumes following an air raid in 1943.
Hannover The Stadtbibliothek (Municipal Library) lost about 125,000 volumes as a result of bombing in 1943 and 1944.
Karlsruhe The Badische Landesbibliothek lost about 360,000 volumes following an air raid in September 1942. The Library of the Technical University lost 63,000 volumes in the field of the natural sciences.
Kassel The Landesbibliothek was destroyed by bombing in September 1941. About 350,000 out of 400,000 volumes were destroyed, while the rest suffered water damage. The Murhardsche Bibliothek lost two fifths of its collection of 241,000 volumes (political and social sciences, technical works etc.) in October 1943 as a result of bombing.
Kiel The University Library lost 250,000 volumes after air raids in April 1942 and May 1944. The Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesbibliothek lost its reference collection after a raid in January 1944 and part of its catalogue.
Leipzig The University Library lost several thousands of volumes, including incunabula, owing to bad storage conditions. The Stadtbibliothek (Municipal Library) lost 175,000 out of 181,000 volumes and the oldest catalogues. The Library of the German Museum of the Book lost 60,000 volumes after an air raid in December 1943.
Magdeburg The Stadtbibliothek (Municipal Library) lost 140,000 out of 180,000 volumes after an air raid in September 1944.
Marburg The University Library lost about 50,000 volumes after a fire broke out in a disused mine where books had been stored.
München The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek was hit four times by bombs 1943-1945. It lost about 500,000 volumes, including publications of learned societies, doctoral dissertations and part of the Bavarica collection. The University Library lost one third of its collection, about 350,000 volumes. The Stadtbibliothek lost 80,000 volumes. The Benedictine Library's 120,000 volumes were mostly destroyed.
Münster The University Library was hit several times by bombs as of October 1943. Two thirds of the collection, about 360,000 volumes were destroyed, including the reference collection. The Library of the Fürstenbger-Stammheim Family lost its 22,000 old printed works in the fields of history and German and French literature. The catalogues were burned as well.
Nürnberg The Stadtbibliothek lost about 100,000 volumes following an air raid in January 1945, with parts of the catalogue.
Stuttgart The Württembergische Landesbibliothek was bombed in September 1944 and lost 580,000 volumes. In July 1944 the Library of the Technical University lost 50,000 out of 118,000 volumes, mostly natural and technical sciences. In the air raids of July and September, the Stuttgart Music Academy was destroyed.
Würzburg The University Library was hit by bombs in March 1945 and lost about 200,000 out of 550,000 volumes, plus 230,000 doctoral dissertations.

LJ 70(1945)1104; Leyh, 35-198; A. Klotzbucher, in Mitteilungsblatt Verband der Bibliotheken des Landes Norhrhein-Westfalen 34(1984)229-244; W. Mühlner, in Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen 95(1981)385-394; H. Gronemeyer, in Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswe­sen und Bibliographie 26(1979)371-382; C. Niebel, in Forum-Musikbibliothek 1988(310-315)



1940 Baltic states
After the occupation by Soviet troops an official list of Banned Books and Brochures was issued in Latvia in November 1940. With additional lists, over 4,000 titles were proscribed: historical, political and 'nationalist authors'. In Latvia as in Estonia and Lithuania such books were removed from bookstores and libraries and, in many cases, publicly burned.

R.J. Misiunas and R. Taagepera, The Baltic states. Years of dependence 1940-1980. London, 1983, p. 36


1940-1944 France
Alsace-Lorraine These regions were annexed to Germany after June 1940. In consequence of a policy of 'germanification', thousands of volumes of French books were confiscated and sent to Germany. Libraries were forced to accept German books instead, as many as 70,000 in the case of Mulhouse. After the liberation of France in 1944, many of these books and libraries were destroyed in their turn by the French resistance, e.g. in Colmar.
Beauvais Bombs destroyed the Municipal Library in June 1940, with the loss of about 42,000 volumes.
Caen Both the University and the Municipal Libraries were destroyed by bombs in 1940.
Chartres An American phosphor bomb hit the Library and destroyed about 23,000 volumes, including manuscripts and incunabula.
Dieppe In August 1944 retreating German troops blew up the Municipal Library.
Douai The Municipal Library lost 110,000 out of 115,000 volumes.
Le Havre The Library of the Société Commerciale was completely destroyed by bombs in an air raid. Geographical and travel books were lost.
Metz An important collection of manuscripts (including the bequest of Baron de Salis) were stored for safe-keeping in Saint-Quentin. At the allied advance in 1944, a German soldier threw an incendiary grenade in the fort, which destroyed many precious manuscripts, including a Reichenau Evangeliary of the 11th century and a celebrated Apocalypse of the 13th century.
Paris The Library of the National Assembly lost 40,000 volumes during the liberation of Paris in 1944 when German soldiers set fire to the Palais-Bourbon. Old printed works in the fields of theology, science and the arts were lost.
Strasbourg The National and University Library was partially destroyed by an air raid in September 1944. Literary periodicals and publications of learned societies were among the losses, as well as the greater part of the medical collection. About 300,000 out of 800,000 volumes were destroyed

Tours The Municipal Library was hit by bombs in June 1940 and was completely destroyed, with the loss of 200,000 volumes, 400 incunabula and 400 manuscripts.

Briet, 8, 21-22; Marie Kühlmann, in Histoire des bibliothèques françaises. IV. Les bibliothèques au XXe siècle 1914-1990. Paris, 1992, 222-247
1940 Belgium
After the disaster of 1914, the Library of the Catholic University of Louvain was hit once again in 1940. In May, the stacks were completely burned down, as a result of German artillery fire. About 900,000 volumes, 800 manuscripts, all incunabula, and 200 prints of old masters were lost. Also in May, a German air raid destroyed the Public Library of Tournay, with its collection of old books and manuscripts.

J.F. Vanderheijden, in LJ 71(1946)636-638; ELI vol.2, p 310-311


1940 The Netherlands, Middelburg
The Provincial Library of Zeeland was destroyed in May after German bombs hit the town; a valuable scholarly collection of about 160,000 volumes was completely destroyed, while the remainder was seriously damaged by water or fire.

Briet, 21; B.D.H. Tellegen, De Provinciale Bibliotheek van Zeeland, 1953, p. 3


1940-1944 Italy
Italian libraries suffered damage as a result of allied and German air raids. More than 20 Municipal libraries were destroyed and many public libraries suffered the same fate. It has been estimated that almost 2 million printed works and 39,000 manuscripts were destroyed.
Milan The Public Library lost 200,000 volumes.
Naples In 1943 German troops set fire to the University Library, with the loss of about 200,000 volumes.
Parma The Palatina suffered damage from an air raid.
Turin The National Library was seriously damage by an air raid in December 1942.

Briet, 8, 23; Johnson, 181; G. Näther, Bibliothekswesen in Italien. München etc., 1990, 12


1940-1941 United Kingdom
Bristol The University Library of Bristol was damaged by air raids, which destroyed the Library of the Department of Anatomy, with further damage to books by water and broken glass.
Coventry The Central (Public) Library was completely destroyed by German bombs; more than 100,000 volumes were lost.
Liverpool The Central Lending Library was destroyed.

London About 7,000 volumes of King's College were removed to Bristol and were lost when the Great Hall of Bristol University was hit by incendiary bombs. The law libraries of the Inner Temple and Middle Temple suffered losses as a result of air raids. The Guildhall was partly destroyed by fire and lost 25,000 volumes. The Minet Public Library was hit by bombs in December and lost 20,000 books. The Library of the British Museum was damaged and lost 200,000 volumes in the main building and 30,000 volumes of newspapers in the Hendon Repository.

Russell, 277-279; Library Association Record 43(1941)93; Goetz, 436; T. Kelly, History of Public Libraries in Great Britain 1845-1975. London, 1977, 328. H.U. Stubbings, Blitzkrieg and books. Bloomington, Ind., 1992
1941 Serbia, National Library in Belgrade
In April the Library was completely destroyed as a result of German bombs. About 1,300 Cyrillic Manuscripts from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries were burned as well as important manuscript collections of Serbian authors and scholars. Incunabula and old printed works were also destroyed, as were Serbian books printed between 1832 and 1941.

Führer Nationalbibliothek der Sozialistischen Republik Serbien. Belgrade, 1973


1941-1944 Soviet Union
As a result of the German invasion, heavy damage was done to Russian libraries. It has been estimated that more than 100 million books have been destroyed, mainly from public libraries.

Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie in der USSR. Uebersetzungen aus der Grossen Sowjetenzyklopädie. Berlin [c. 1958], 38; ELI vol. 26, 182


1942-1945 Japan
Air raids did heavy damage to libraries and collections, including the Cabinet Library in Tokyo.

Borsa, 291


1943 Austria, University Library of Graz
About 100 manuscripts and 4,500 volumes of academic publications, which had been stored for safe keeping in Steiermark, were lost as a result of plunder.

M. Hirschegger, in Liber Bulletin 32/33(1989)6-12



1943 Peru, Biblioteca Nacional in Lima
In May, a fire completely destroyed the National Library, with the loss of 100,000 volumes as well as 40,000 manuscripts (documents concerning the Spanish Conquest, the wars of independence etc.).

LJ 68(1943)486; La Biblioteca Nacional del Perú. Lima, 1971, 13


1944-1945 Hungary
Nearly all small libraries (public, special) were destroyed and many of the larger libraries suffered serious damage during the siege of Budapest. The libraries of Parliament and of the Academy of Sciences were among the libraries most severely hit; the library of the Polytechnic Institute was completely destroyed.

Briet, 23; ELI vol. 11, 93; Charlotte Réthi, in Bibliothek und Wissenschaft 4(1967)173-174; J. Kiss, Die ungarischen Bibliotheken. Budapest, 1972, 13


1944-1945 Romania
About 300,000 volumes from public libraries were destroyed. The Library of the Polytechnic Institute in Jassy lost 15,0000 books and 4,000 volumes of periodicals, mostly on mathematical subjects.

Briet, 22; ELI vol. 26, 92


1946 Germany, Thüringische Landesbücherei, Gotha
A collection of about 270,000 (out of 400,000) volumes was confiscated by the Russian authorities and removed to the Soviet Union, including manuscripts and incunabula.

Leyh, 99
1946 Germany, (Former) Royal and Provincial Library, Hannover


In February, a flood did serious damage to books in the cellars, where 130 cases were stored (including 52 cases with manuscripts). These cases contained the library's most precious materials and had just been returned from storage elsewhere .

Leyh, 113


1947 Pakistan, Lahore
As a result of communal riots, two of the largest libraries of the Indian subcontinent were damaged.

ELI vol. 21, p. 256


1949-1957 China
Following the communist take over, libraries all over the country were purged of 'reactionary, obscene and absurd' publications.

Ting, 139


1951 United States, Michigan State Library

In February a man accidentally caused a fire in the State Office Building. The Library, housed in the basement and the first floor, was seriously damaged by the water pumped into the building to extinguish the fire. As a result, 22,400 books and 7,200 pamphlets had to be discarded, while thousands of others had to be treated.

Goetz, 429-431
1963 Yugoslavia, National and University Library of Macedonia
In July, an earthquake caused serious damage to the town of Skopje and to the library.

ELI vol. 33, 439-440


1966 United States, Jewish Theological Seminary Library, New York
In April a fire broke out which destroyed many books which had escaped destruction in Europe during the Second World War. About 70,000 books, many of them rare, were burned to ashes, while the remaining 150,000 were damaged by the water used in extinguishing the fire.

Goetz, 431; Büch, 34


1966 Italy, Florence
As a result of the Arno flood of November, the basement of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale was filled by water and mud. Nearly 1,200,000 volumes and pamphlets were flooded, including 100,000 rare volumes of the Magliabecchi collection, 50,000 folios of the Palatina, a newspaper collection of 400,000 volumes. The card catalogue was damaged as well. Other collections in Florence suffered flood damage too, e.g. the 350,000 volume collection of the Vieusseux (including first editions and association copies). At the University Library, 200,000 volumes were under water. In the major libraries of the city, a total of 2 million volumes were submerged. An international rescue operation salvaged many of the books.

C. Horton, in WLB 41(1966-67)1035-1043; Goetz, 432-433; ELI vol. 8,541-545


1966-1976 China
During the Cultural Revolution, a systematic effort was made to purge and destroy all politically 'incorrect books'. All libraries were closed for various lengths of time between 1966 and 1970. Some were closed permanently and burned. Others were thoroughly purged, only the books of Marx, Lenin and Mao being spared. Although no record has been kept of the losses, it is clear that destruction of books took place on an unprecedented scale.

Ting, 145-151


1966 Tibet
Tibet had been occupied by Communist China since 1950. In 1966, the Cultural Revolution wrought havoc in this country too. Red Guards invaded the leading monastery in Tibet and destroyed frescoes and irreplaceable historic manuscripts. Elsewhere in the country, heavy damage was inflicted as well, including the burning of religious and historic manuscripts.

E.M. Neterowicz, The Tragedy of Tibet. Washington, 1989, p.61-62


1968 Greenland, Central Library in Godthab
The library was totally destroyed by fire, with the loss of the majority of the 30,000 volume book stock, including the irreplaceable Groenlandica collection.

Goetz, 431; Büch, 35



1968 United States, Holyoke Community College, Massachusetts
A fire destroyed the entire college, with the loss of 16,000 volumes as well as the catalogues.

LJ 93(1968)704; Goetz, 432


1969 United States, Indiana University Library
A fire destroyed 40,000 volumes and damaged 27,000 others, especially in the field of German literature.

LJ 94(1969)2384; Goetz, 432


1972 United States, Corning Museum of Glass, New York
In June, the collection of the Corning Museum of Glass was submerged by flood waters, the after-effects of a hurricane. A limited number of objects in the glass collection sustained damage, but the rare book and manuscript collection collapsed into the slime.

J.H. Martin, in WLB 50(1975-76)231-241


1976-1979 Cambodia
Following their rise to power, the Khmer Rouge systematically began to destroy all vestiges of 'corrupt' culture. In the National Library in Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge threw out and burned most of the books and all bibliographical records; less than 20 percent of the collection survived. The total amount of damage is unknown, but irreparable harm has been done to the country's national heritage. The remaining material is seriously threatened by bad storage conditions, especially in the case of palm leaf manuscripts.

J.F. Dean, in American Archivist 53(1990)282-293


1978 United States, Stanford University Library
Water main break caused major damage to 40,000 books plus 3,000 valuable items including miniature books.

LJ 103(1978)2468


1979 United Kingdom, Taylor Institution Library
In January, a water main burst at the Taylor Institution Library of Oxford University, allowing a considerable quantity of water to enter the building. About 2,000 books were damaged, including rare volumes from a unique collection of Slavonic literature, some dating back to the sixteenth century.

Paper Conservator, 1982, 28


1984 The Netherlands, Library of the Dutch-South Africa Society

In January, left-wing activists destroyed the uniquely important library of the Nederlands-Zuidafrikaanse Vereniging in Amsterdam by throwing the books in the canals.

B. Büch, in Folia 21-28 jan. 1984, p. 5
1986 United States, Los Angeles Central Library
In April, a deliberately-set fire destroyed the nation's third largest public library. In the worst library fire in American history, nearly 400,000 volumes out of a total of 2,1 million were completely destroyed. Another 700,000 volumes were water-soaked or dampened, while all remaining books suffered smoke damage. Among the losses were the largest and oldest collection of patents and inventions in the American West and one of America's largest collections of cook books.

Conservation Administration News, Oct. 1986


1987 The Netherlands, Library of the University of Amsterdam
In November part of the collection that had been stored elsewhere was destroyed in a fire.

Büch, 157


1988 Soviet Union, USSR Academy of Sciences Library, Leningrad
In February, a fire caused what has been called 'the biggest single library disaster in this century': about 3,6 million books were seriously damaged and 400,000 newspapers and scientific periodicals destroyed.

P. Waters, in Special Libraries 81(1990)35-43


1989 Romania, Bucharest University Library
During the fighting which ended the Ceaucescu regime, 500,000 books were destroyed, many of them rare and valuable.

J. Raabl, in Mitteilungen Österreichischer Bibliothekare

43(1990)111-113
1990 Kuwait
Following the invasion by Iraqi troops, libraries and computer centres were destroyed and burned or (as in the case of the National Scientific and Technological Information Centre) removed to Baghdad.

S. Salem, in Information Development 7(1991)70-71


1992 Croatia

As a result of war violence in former Yugoslavia, many Croatian libraries suffered damage to buildings and/or collections.

Croatian Libraries on Target. Guide. Zagreb, 1992
1993 Bosnia, National Library in Sarajevo
90 % of the collection was destroyed as a result of the civil war, with the loss of unique material for the study of Bosnian culture.
1994 Great Britain, Norwich Central Library
On 1st August, a fire destroyed over 350,000 books as well as irreplaceable historical documents concerning the Norwich area.

The Bookseller, 5 August 1994, p 5




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