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Restitution after 80 Years

Book Confiscated by Nazis Returned to Owner

№ 235/2018 from Sep 12, 2018

After 80 years, a book confiscated in National Socialist Germany was handed over to its present owner. The book Mein Deutschland, was written by the Jewish physician Benno Latz and printed in a limited edition. Today's rightful owner, the British artist Geoff Latz, a grandson of the author, was found through an article in the newspaper. The restitution was coordinated by the staff of the unit in the University Library of Freie Universität Berlin that is devoted to finding and returning Nazi-looted books.

An article in the British newspaper Telegraph & Argus about a memorial campaign initiated by Geoff Latz was drawn to the attention of library staff in the Nazi-Loot Investigation Bureau of the University Library of Freie Universität Berlin. Geoff Latz is the grandson of Benno Latz, and the librarians contacted him. In 1938 Geoff Latz’s grandfather had fled from Nazi Germany and went to New York. His son Helmut, Geoff's father, also fled Germany in 1938 and went to Britain. Benno Latz wrote Mein Deutschland between 1933 and 1934 to commemorate Jewish soldiers who had fought for Germany in the First World War. He himself had served as a medical officer in the war.

Nazi-looted booty includes private property such as works of art and books that were among other things confiscated in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945 or sold under duress. The confiscations were directed against Jews, Sinti, and Roma as well as members of other religious or ethnic minorities, political opponents of National Socialism, including political parties and trade unions, but also scholars and homosexuals, both in the German Reich and in occupied countries. Books were confiscated in very large quantities. At the end of World War II, these books were partly owned by libraries, former National Socialist officials, and private collectors. In the following years, many of these books were scattered around the world.

The goal of the Nazi-Loot Investigation Bureau in the library is to identify the books stolen under the National Socialist Regime and to restore them to their current rightful owners. The Nazi-Loot Investigation Bureau, together with the Baden State Library, the Library of the New Synagogue Foundation Berlin – Centrum Judaicum, the Hanover City Library, the Potsdam University Library, and the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin are in charge of the Looted Cultural Assets Database. All of the involved libraries enter the information about any books they are able to track down. The database can be viewed at: http://lootedculturalassets.de/index.php.


Ringo Narewski, Project Manager, Nazi-Loot Investigation Bureau / Stabsstelle NS-Raub- und Beutegut, University Library, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838 51532, Email: restitution@ub.fu-berlin.de