The Library of Lost Books


Heads of Project:

  • Irene Aue-Ben David (LBI Jerusalem)
  • Joseph Cronin (LBI London)
  • Jakob Kroneck (FuF Berlin)


Bettina Farack

A Project by

Funded by

A Pioneering Search for Jewish Books Looted by the Nazis

The Library of Lost Books project is dedicated to recovering the lost collection of the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin. This pre-WWII Jewish studies library housed over 60,000 volumes before the Nazis stole them in 1942. Despite wartime losses, about 5,000 books have been rediscovered in collections worldwide so far.

The Largest Citizen Science Initiative of Its Kind

This project marks the first global call to the public for assistance in locating these lost treasures. The Leo Baeck Institute, with support from the German Foundation for Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (EVZ) and the German Ministry of Finance (BMF), has created a dedicated platform for this endeavor. The Library of Lost Books website features a database, an interactive map, and an online exhibition detailing the history and legacy of the Higher Institute. Additionally, a traveling exhibition related to this project will visit locations in Israel, Europe, and the US during 2023 and 2024.

Discover Our Stories

Explore our growing collection of blog articles for an inside perspective on the project. These posts range from details of our Berlin launch event to accounts of individual book searches. They provide a glimpse into our methodologies and the unique histories of the books we find. To stay updated with the latest developments, sign up for our newsletter.

The 25th anniversary of the Washington Principles was marked by a remarkable event, now available for viewing online. This event, hosted by Leo Baeck Institute New York and the Yeshiva University Museum, featured a keynote address by Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, the architect behind the agreement that has reshaped the landscape of restitution of cultural objects.
Kinga Bloch shares insights into organizing a forthcoming “Library of Lost Books” Search Day at Leo Baeck College London, detailing an on-site visit and thorough planning efforts to ensure an exciting Search Day for our book detectives.
Yechezkel Bund, a teacher and dedicated genealogist, volunteers his expertise to identify the people who donated books to the Berlin Higher Institute for Jewish Studies. His work illuminates the books’ pre-lives and the academic and social networks surrounding the Institute. In sharing his experiences and findings, Yechezkel offers insights and advice for those interested in the intricate world of genealogy.
Join Esther Zyskina from Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem for an exciting look behind the scenes of provenance research and follow the journey of a book from Jerusalem to Berlin and back to Jerusalem.
Meet Adele Sperling, a librarian at the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies, who played a key role in ensuring book access for readers during a critical time in history. This article explores her role at the Institute and the challenges it faced under Nazi repression.
In 2021, even before the ‘Library of Lost Books’ was established, historian Amit Levy emerged as our first-ever book detective. Working on his doctoral thesis at the National Library of Israel (NLI), he unearthed a lost book from the Higher Institute’s library. His response? Sharing this find with the world through a tweet. We spoke to him about the significance of his find and his tips for future book detectives.
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