Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Provenienzrecherche nach NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogenem Kulturgut im Bestand der Bibliothek des Botanischen Garten und Botanischen Museums Berlin (BGBM), Freie Universität Berlin

funding area Nazi confiscated art Grant recipient Bibliothek des Botanischen Garten und Botanischen Museums Berlin, Universitätsbibliothek, Freie Universität Berlin State Berlin Contact person Project type Long-term project to systematically investigate collection holdings Funding duration
  1. April 2021 to April 2023


Originally founded in 1819 the Library of the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum (BGBM) has since been integrated into the University Library at Freie Universitaet Berlin as a unit of its own. The purpose of the Library of the BGBM is, to collect literature on algae, fungi and plants from all over the world and in all languages with a focus on general and systematic botany, plant geography and vegetation science as well as on applied botany and conservation of species and nature. Being the leading botanical library in the German-speaking region and one of the most important in Europe the library of the BGBM is open to the public.
When in March 1943 a bomb hit the museum building located next to the Botanical Garden in Berlin’s neighbourhood Dahlem, the majority of its library holdings were destroyed by fire. For restocking the library, the „Reichstauschstelle und Beschaffungsamt der Deutschen Bibliotheken“ (originally a Reich Office for the exchange of books between libraries) provided 1 Million Reichsmark in funding to permit numerous purchases on the antiquarian book market. The library’s executives immediately started on rebuilding its collections. For that purpose, they made use of all the ways the National Socialist system had for acquiring books. The library’s directors bought complete legacy libraries and books as well as periodicals and many offprints from antiquarian booksellers not only on the domestic market but also in the occupied countries. In addition, organisations like the „Reichstauschstelle“, the “Reichsstelle für Natzurschutz” (Reich Office for Nature Conservation) and an office training interpreters for the High Command of the Wehrmacht provided the library of the BGBM with botanical literature. Botanists serving with the Wehrmacht in occupied parts of Eastern Europe played their part, too. Those library holdings inventoried during the war and in the immediate postwar period are under strong suspicion of containing Nazi confiscated and looted property. Some books showing Belarusian library stamps clearly identify as Nazi loot and have already been returned. Through an Initial Check in Scientific University Collections in 2018/19 [Link: (in German)] however, a corpus of around 12,000 volumes acquired between 1943 and 1945 could be distinguished that is likely to still contain Nazi confiscated property. In close collaboration with the Bureau for Nazi-Looted Materials at the Freie Universitaet Berlin [Link: ], the ongoing project will systematically investigate the concerned items for proof of their provenance. Findings will be documented in the database Looted Cultural Assets [Link: (in German)]. Further research aims to identify Nazi confiscated property so that returns to the rightful owners and their heirs can be initiated.

© Library of the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum, University Library, Freie Universitaet Berlin, May 2021