You've probably read (or seen the George Clooney movie) about the Nazi plunder of fine art during World War II. Less well known, however, is the staggering theft of books during the conflict, during which European libraries were decimated and millions of books were stolen or destroyed. From inexpensive volumes scavenged from the homes of deported Jews to priceless historic documents stripped from national repositories, the Nazis' operation began as a way to build "intelligence" libraries about conquered peoples…and escalated into a terrifying effort to erase entire cultures. In this riveting, exhaustive account, Anders Rydell journeys across Europe—and through the darkest recesses of modern history—to chronicle the literary obliteration wrought by the Third Reich. Along the way, he meets a small but determined group of librarians undertaking the arduous process of trying to return the surviving books to their rightful owners: "We can't give people their lives back, but maybe we can give them something else. A book, and maybe a memory."
It is an illuminating and essential read for bibliophiles. (KG)