“Much More than just another Private Collection”: The Schocken Library and its Rescue from Nazi Germany in 1935

Stefanie Mahrer 1
  • 1 The Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center, Yitzhak Rabin Building, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905

Abstract

This article reconstructs for the first time the rescue of the Schocken Library, one of the largest privately owned book collections, from Nazi Germany. The library consisted of over 60,000 volumes of rare and precious ­Hebrew and German books, manuscripts, and incunabula. The books were shipped from Germany to Mandate Palestine in the years 1934–1937 and the library is one of the few collections that completely survived National Socialist destruction and looting. The case of the Schocken library can help us understand all of the many challenges involved in successfully relocating a library of its size. Without a network of professionals, experience dealing with authorities and unlimited funds, an operation like the shipment of the Schocken library would not have been possible. The second part of the paper focuses on how, once the library was in Jerusalem, the way in which it was perceived changed. From the contemporary perspective of the owner, the merchant and publisher Salman Schocken, and from the perspective of its users and visitors, the library was perceived as a place of continuity in exile rather than as a place of saved books. The micro-historical perspective not only allows us to understand how historical subjects interpret the world around them but also how they try to influence historical processes.

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Naharaim is a peer-reviewed journal of the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is devoted to current research in philosophical, literary, and historical aspects of German-Jewish culture. The contributions are mainly in German or English.

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