How Books Looted by the Third Reich Made Their Way to Los Angeles

So far, American universities haven’t started burning books that students wish to see canceled. The Nazis, who famously burned the books they banned, for their own perverse reasons also sought to preserve them. Diane Mizrachi and Michal Bušek explain that policy, and how it resulted in six books bearing the stamp of a Jewish library in Prague turning up at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) library:

[The Nazis’] systematic looting of libraries all through Europe . . . resulted in the destruction and dispersion of an estimated 100 million books, and their celebratory bonfires of “un-German” books are well documented. While the overwhelming emphasis was on the destruction of Jewish books, the Nazis also targeted other literature they believed antithetical to their ideology.

Early on in the regime, however, they implemented a parallel strategy of building a core collection of Jewish works for their own scholars to study. They planned to build institutes where party scholars would interpret these texts and, using Nazi ideological perspectives, provide “scientific proof” of their racial superiority and justify their campaigns to demonize Judaism and annihilate the Jewish race. Amassing Jewish books for institute libraries was the first step in this plan. Even though these institutes and museums for “extinct people” were never built, Nazi agents stormed across Europe plundering millions of books and artifacts. They sent crates of loot to various centers for sorting and selection: preservation or destruction.

Among the thousands of libraries looted by Nazis was the Jewish Religious Community Library in Prague, . . . established in 1857 to accommodate donations of private collections from Jews as they became less interested in maintaining personal Judaica collections. It was opened to the public in 1874, becoming one of the first Jewish community libraries in Europe and among the richest. Its 1939 catalog, still in existence, records nearly 30,000 books, manuscripts, and periodicals. Like Jewish libraries everywhere under the Nazis, the collection was confiscated and dispersed.

Read more at College & Research Libraries

More about: Holocaust, Libraries, Rare books

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood