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Culture

THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF AUSTRIA CONTINUES LOOKING FOR OWNERS OF EXPOLIED OBJECTS

More than seven decades after the end of World War II, the National Library of Austria continues to store thousands of items stolen by the Nazis, waiting to find descendants of the owners, who were killed or exiled.

Of the more than 52,000 objects stolen by the Nazi secret police (Gestapo) not only in Austria but also in other neighbouring countries, the National Library has managed to return about 47,000 objects since 2002, says Margot Werner, head of the project for the restitution of expired works.

Among the nearly 5,000 that remain to be returned there are not only books but also letters, scores or autographs.

The aim of the initiative, launched 15 years ago, is to find some identity mark of the original owners, as a name, a signature or a stamp characteristic of a family.

“We got to have in our hands about 200,000 books, we went bookshelves on shelves”, Werner told EFE.

“Afterwards, we compared the titles found with the official library inventory to see the origin of the book: whether it had been bought, given away or stolen”, she adds.

Austria was annexed in March 1938 by the Nazis and although after World War II the Alpine country emphasized its role as the first victim of Hitler Germany, an important part of the Austrian population was fervent Nazi follower.

The collections

The calligraphy or the way of binding the books are two of the factors that most help to identity original owners, since, although the signature was not in all, the letter or the ligatures used were the same.

From certain collections it was known that they belonged to well-known families, such as the Austrian line of Rothschild bankers, but others were of anonymous persons.

“The problem was not the large collections we knew who they belonged to, but the myriad small collections the Gestapo brought to the Library after its owners were deported or had fled”, Werner explains.

In 2010, after several years of research, 8,363 volumes became part of the collection of the National Library of Austria, when they were declared without heirs because there was no identifying sign in them.

The Austrian Government enacted a restitution law in 1998 whereby the Library could purchase unmanufactured objects at a price marked by an independent expert.

The money obtained goes to the different funds of Austria for the victims of National Socialism, recalls Werner.

The “National Fund”

The National Library actively collaborates with the so-called “National Fund”, the institution dedicated to compensate the Austrian victims of Nazism.

Since its founding in 1995, it has awarded 5,000 Euros to about 30,000 people and various grants to more than 20,000 people for having lost their properties, the institution’s general secretary, Hannah Lessing, told EFE.

“We have gone to all the embassies (from Austria abroad). I have travelled to Australia, I have visited every city in America. I’ve been to Uruguay, Argentina, or Israel hundreds of times. I was in every country where I knew that many Austrians had fled, “he recalls.

This aid was paid to people of Austrian nationality or who lived in Austria for more than 10 years before 1938, when the country was annexed by Germany, explains Lessing.

Of the 200,000 Austrian Jews living in the Alpine republic in 1938, some 65,000 were deported and killed by the Nazis.

The rest managed to emigrate, especially to the United States and Israel, but also to countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or Argentina, among many others.

The victims of the plunder were not only Jews but also in cultural, social or political institutions contrary to the ideology of Nazism.

For example, entities such as the International Psychoanalytic Association or the consulate of Czechoslovakia in Vienna were among the institutions that saw how its works and documents disappear.

Mozart

One of the most famous objects with which the Gestapo had and which ended up in the Library’s stores was the original libretto of the opera The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, written by Emanuel Schikaneder.

According to Werner, without giving more details, this emblematic work has already been returned to its owners.

Generally the books are handed over to the heirs, although in some cases they are sent to the countries of residence of the exiles and their descendants.

Usually, the heirs want to keep the books of their ancestors, although there are also cases in which they ask the National Library to acquire them.

“Until we have returned the last book, we will not stop,” Werner concludes. (August 13, 2017, EFE / Practica Español)

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Exercise of comprehension B.2

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Question 1
La noticia habla...
A
de los libros que los nazis robaron durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.
B
de los libros que se editaron durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.
C
del hallazgo de unos libros que se creían perdidos.
Question 2
En la noticia se dice que...
A
la Biblioteca Nacional de Austria no sabe qué hacer con los libros que fueron robados por los nazis.
B
la Biblioteca Nacional de Austria está devolviendo los libros que pertenecieron a los nazis.
C
la Biblioteca Nacional de Austria está devolviendo los libros que fueron robados por los nazis.
Question 3
Según el texto...
A
muy pocos libros fueron robados por los nazis.
B
miles de libros fueron robados por los nazis.
C
millones de libros fueron robados por los nazis.
Question 4
En la noticia se dice que...
A
todavía no se ha devuelto ningún libro que fue robado.
B
la mayoría de libros ya han sido devueltos a sus dueños o herederos.
C
todos los libros pertenecían a personas muy conocidas e influyentes.
Question 5
Si no se encuentra al dueño, la Biblioteca compraría esos libros.
A
Verdadero.
B
No se sabe.
C
Falso.
Question 6
Hay obras de gran valor entre los libros robados.
A
Falso.
B
Verdadero.
C
No se sabe.
Question 7
La Segunda Guerra Mundial tuvo lugar...
A
entre 1939 y 1945.
B
entre 1929 y 1945.
C
a finales de los años cuarenta.
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Exercise of orthography B.2

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Question 1
Elige la opción correcta
A
No estoy en Alemania si no en Austria.
B
No estoy en Alemania sino en Austria.
Question 2
Elige la opción correcta
A
No solo hay una biblioteca nacional en Austria si no también en España.
B
No solo hay una biblioteca nacional en Austria sino también en España.
Question 3
Elige la opción correcta
A
Sino cuidas tus libros, se estropearán.
B
Si no cuidas tus libros, se estropearán.
Question 4
Elige la opción correcta
A
¿Qué harán sino encuentran al dueño del libro?
B
¿Qué harán si no encuentran al dueño del libro?
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Noticias al azar