Books to Remember
The research reminded me of a visit to the site of Bebelplatz in Berlin, Germany, last year, where a haunting monument commemorates the 20,000 library books burnt by Nazi party supporters in 1933. There is enough shelf-space in the empty chamber below the cobbled square to hold the thousands of books that were lost.
I came across Benny Brunner's 2008 documentary, The Great Book Robbery, which tells the story of thousands of recently discovered books marked 'AP' in the vaults of the Israeli National Library. 'AP' stands for 'Abandoned Property' and marks the books taken from evacuated Palestinian homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. It is estimated that over 60,000 books were taken from homes in Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa.
Brunner's documentary tells this story with eye witnesses, interviewing both the soldiers and librarians ordered to search the houses, and the Palestinians who lost their books and libraries along with their homes. In cases like these, the line between cultural preservation and cultural theft becomes disturbingly blurred. I really recommend this if you can watch sometime.