Israelitische Religionsgemeinde zu Dresden, Wünsche-Bibliothek
"Subject: Library of the Jewish Religious Community Dresden and the affiliated Wünsche-Library.
The library was packed by U'stuf. Stein from July 21 to July 24 in Dresden and transferred to Berlin.
Box numbers: Dresden, JRG, nos. 1 to 58.
Approximately 6000 volumes."
With this memo from July 1939, SS-Untersturmführer Stein reported the dissolution of yet another Jewish library, as systematically implemented by the Security Service (SD) in those weeks to make it usable for so-called enemy research.
Almost 83 years later, three of these 6000 books returned to Dresden. In Heidelberg, we have so far found two books with the stamps identifying them as the property of the Israelitische Religionsgemeinde zu Dresden and as part of the associated Wünsche library. Together with a copy identified in the library of the Freie Universität Berlin, the volumes have now been returned to the Jewish Community of Dresden / Jüdische Religionsgemeinde zu Dresden.
In 1911, the Jewish Religious Community of Dresden acquired the important private Judaic library of the (Protestant) Hebraist Karl/Carl August Wünsche (1838-1913). It was not integrated into the existing community library, but merely attached to it. The stamps made especially for it testify to the status given to the new collection. In 1927, the IRG published a catalog of the existing stock of books - again separated into the Wünsche Library and the Community Library. All three books to be restituted are listed in this catalog. In 1932, the municipality placed advertisements in several newspapers in order to draw attention to the Wünsche Library and to attract interested persons as visitors or users. In addition, it can be speculated whether the community also wanted to offer itself as a custodian for other scholars' libraries and thus competed with the Society of Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for example.
The November pogroms were accompanied by the confiscation of the library of the Dresden Religious Community, and in July 1939, on the instructions of SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Helmut Knochen, the books were ordered to be transported to the SD-Hauptamt in Berlin.
In the case of the copies identified in Heidelberg, in view of the context of the collection under investigation, it can be assumed that they were transferred to the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" in the course of the Allied air raids on Berlin in 1943 - either to Theresienstadt and/or to the Prague Jewish Central Museum. From there they arrived in the 1960s in the luggage of Rabbi Emil Davidovič in Western Germany and finally to Heidelberg. However, the fact that not the entire holdings of the community library were transferred to the Protectorate is suggested by a copy identified in the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin - and restituted in 2013 - which contains the reference to salvage point 15. It is possible that the books remaining in Berlin also explain the accession of the Berlin Freie Universität's copy.
Catalog of the library of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde zu Dresden.
Packing and shipment of the books to the SD-Hauptamt in Berlin: BArch R 58/6424, Bl. 183-185.
On (Carl/Karl) August Wünsche, obituaries on his person and the Wünsche library:
Ancestry.de (birth, marriage, orbituaries)
Blog entry in the Looted Cultural Assets portal
Links to the copies in the Looted Cultural Assets database:
Peter Le Page Renouf: Vorlesungen über Ursprung und Entwickelung der Religion der alten Aegypter, Leipzig 1882;
Signature of the Wünsche Library: A 304
Adolf Jellinek: Einleitung in die Thora. Fünf Reden, Wien 1866
Signature of the Wünsche Library: H I 14
Franz Steinmetzer: Neue Untersuchung über die Geschichtlichkeit der Juditherzählung, Leipzig 1907
Signature of the Wünsche Library: E I 511
(Text: Ph. Zschommler)