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Cossmann/Cosman Werner Library of the Jewish Community Munich

Two books bearing the stamp of this institution have so far been found in the Heidelberg holdings. We were able to restitute a copy to today’s Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria in November 2022. The second copy is to follow, but it is part of an anthology which also contains works with other provenance marks. These works were probably bound together in the 1960s by Rabbi Davidovič. Further research is still pending. The books from Munich fall out of the frame at first glance when attempting to put them in the context of the Davidovič collection, since in addition to the area of Westphalia mainly books are contained from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia or evacuated there. However, the fact that books with the provenance of Cossmann (also Cosman) Werner Library are currently in the Jewish Museum Prague is an indication of the transfer of stolen cultural property with the interstation Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) in Berlin, since books were outsourced from there to Bohemia in 1943.

After the seizure of power by the Nazis, with regard to the libraries, the focus was first on the Freemasonry, which, in the sense of the so-called enemy research (Gegnerforschung), was to be expropriated and merged. The range of opponents was to be expanded and so libraries of Jewish institutions at the latest in 1938 were also targeted by the Security Service (SD, since autumn 1939 RSHA), as is the case for the Cossman Werner Library in Munich, whose fate can be traced here using selected contemporary sources (The original quotes translated from German into English can be found on the German version of this website.):

Cossmann Werner Library of the Jewish Community of Munich

The library originated from an original community library of teachers and students. By the rich indulgence of the blessed Rabbi Prof. Dr. Cossmann Werner transformed the library into a scientific institute. Combined with two other libraries in the community and enriched by several larger book foundations of community members, the library currently has over 5,000 volumes mainly in German and Hebrew. The library is open Sunday 10-12, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 5-7 and Friday 2-4 o'clock. The library is connected to a reading room with Jewish newspapers and magazines in German and Hebrew.

This is the "self-description" of the library as published in the Bayerische Israelitische Gemeindezeitung on February 27, 1925 (p. 10). The community rabbi Dr. Cossmann Werner had been working in Munich since 1894 and bequeathed his book collection to the library, which was incorporated after his death in 1918. This was accompanied by the renaming of the institution in memory of the generous donor.

In the spring of 1939, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Security Service, ordered the "concentration of Jewish libraries". All seized books were to be stored in the Berlin SD/RSHA. In addition to the bureaucratic effort that the SD Main Office and SD Upper Sections Oberabschnitte) had to cope with, the lively correspondence with Berlin testifies to a lack of personnel, time, resources, material for crates and transportation options.

The reply from Munich in April 1939 read:

...The only library from the Jewish Cultural Community of Munich, beside the Feuchtwanger Library, was given in November last year in 170 boxes of three centeners each to a Munich freight forwarder in storage.

(Telegram of the SD Upper Section South (SS-Stubf. Karl Gengenbach) to the Berlin SD Main Office (Referent Helmut Knochen) of 24.4.1939, BArch R 58/6424 Merging of confiscated Jewish libraries in SD Main Office Vol. 1/1, digitized p. 215)

The storage of the stolen books took place during the November pogroms and resulted from the order of Heydrich from the telegram (Blitz-Fernschreiben) of the night from 9 to 10 November 1938:

3.) Immediately upon receipt of this letter, all synagogues and business premises of the Jewish Cultural Community shall be confiscated by the police, so that it is not destroyed in the course of the demonstrations. It depends on the historically valuable material, not on newer tax lists, etc. The archive material must be submitted to the responsible SD services.

(“To all Stapoleit- and Stapostellen, to all SD, OA, and all UA.” Telegraph from Group Leader and Head of SD Reinhard Heydrich from 10.11.1938 (1:20 am) in: Hans-Jürgen Döscher, “Reichskristallnacht” - Die November-Pogrome 1938 im Spiegel ausgewählter Quellen, Bonn 1988, p. 23.)

An overview of the libraries secured by the SD states in May 1939:

Munich. Jew. Comm. Libr. packed in 170 boxes, request an extension of the appointment. [Number of books:]? ???

(“Overview of the Jewish Libraries reported up to 6.5.39”, BArch R 58/6424, BArch R 58/6424 Merging of confiscated Jewish libraries in SD Main Office Vol. 1/, digitized p. 381 f.)

At that time, the responsible authorities were not aware of exactly what was in the boxes. The masses alone suggest that they may not have been exclusively books. The 170 boxes would correspond to a weight of 25.5 tons of material. If we emanate from 500 grs per book, this would correspond to 51,000 volumes, which seems less plausible. In a file note from the SD (BArch R 58/6424, digitized p. 387), the library of the Jewish Community of Munich is listed together with institutions whose inventory exceeds 15,000 units; however, an appended report mentions at least 10,000 volumes (BArch R 58/6424, digitized p. 388).

By July, the rough content was known and the separation of the inventory was implemented:

The 170 boxes secured in November last year contain next to the library of the Jew. Community also Jewish archival material. So that a clear elimination of the library material is not possible. After an agreement with the directorate of the Bavarian State Archives, this department faithfully undertakes the appraisal and evaluation of the contents of the 170 boxes. The trained staff of the State and the participation of an SD member are offered for an orderly execution of the sighting. The State Archive was commissioned from here to create a directory of the library, as well as the archive material. After completion of these lists, these will be transmitted immediately after the completion of these lists. The SD H office can then make a clear elimination of the material important for the SD3. Which is then sent there upon request S. However, the work is very time consuming and, according to the State Archives, will take about 6-8 weeks.

The SD leader of the SS-OA South Munich

(SS-OA South Munich (Karl Gengenbach) to the SD H-Amt Berlin (Paul Dittel) dated 12.07.1939, BArch R 58/6424, digital copy 317)

Munich: it is currently sorted by files and books.

(File note of the SD dated 27.7.1939 to the libraries already transferred to Eisenacher Straße, BArch R 58/6424, digitized p. 425)

Especially with regard to the Hebraica and Judaica, the recording of the books was difficult because there were hardly any specialists available. In order to meet the deadline set for the “Jewish Libraries” campaign, Berlin refrained from prior cataloging of the holdings from Munich:

Re the Library of the Israelite Cultural Community. [...]

It is requested to immediately separate the books from the file material and to the RFSS department until 1.8.39. Berlin W 30, Eisenacher Strasse No. 12 for dispatch, since the action for the entire Reich must be completed by this date. There is no need to list the books. The transport invoices are paid by the administration of the SD M' Office. The handling of the transport should be reported to  SS-O’stuf. Dittel by telegram.

(SD Main Office Berlin (Paul Dittel) to SD OA South (Karl Gengenbach) of 26.7.1939, BArch R 58/6424, digitized p. 316)

The books were transferred to Berlin at the beginning of August 1939. Unfortunately, the catalog (inventory book?) mentioned in this notification and the tables of contents are now lost:

Re the Library of the Jewish Community of Munich. [...]

By telegram requested library of the Jewish Community of Munich could only be sent today, as a wagon barrier was imposed by the Reichsbahn. 100 boxes were sent to the service of the RFSS, Berlin W 30, Eisenacherstrasse 12. Attached are a catalogue of the Kosman [sic] Werner Library, as well as 2 tables of contents about Jewish musical material. It is assumed that these tables of contents belong to the library.

(OA South to SD Main Office Berlin from 4.8.1939, BArch R 58/6424, digitized p. 315)

Now, if we start from 100 boxes, we can assume, according to the above calculation, that it could have been about 30,000 books.

After delivery to Berlin, the traces are lost. Isolated books were also found in other libraries and in some cases also restituted. Most of the library doesn't seem to exist anymore. The increasing distortion of traces of provenance outside Europe will certainly bring more copies from Munich to the light, which, based on the remaining stocks in Berlin and Prague, have been distributed all over the world since 1945.

The Main Archives (Hauptarchiv) of the NSDAP in Munich also expressed interest in material from the Munich Jewish Community. During his visit to the Security Service in Munich on November 14, 1939, Wilhelm Bohl, an employee of the Main Archives, found files from the Jewish Community and some Torah scrolls among a number of confiscated items. These were to be transferred to the Main Archive the following week.

(Report by Wilhelm Bohl on his visit to the SD OA Süd on 30.11.1939 [presumably to the head of the Archive Erich Uetrecht], BArch NS 26/1413, digitized p. 797)

Link to the copy restituted by the HfJS in the Looted Cultural Assets database.

(Adolf Schwarz: der Jüdische Kalender. Historisch und astronomisch untersucht, Breslau 1872)

Selected Links:

New acquisitions of the Cosman Library in 1930: f.



The Library today:

Rabbi Dr. Cossmann Werner:



Mourning speeches:


(Text: Ph. Zschommler)