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Restitution Meets Genealogy in Return of Looted Books from Nuremberg

Thu, Mar 14, 2024

Inspired by an LBI program, Karen S. Franklin, LBI’s Director of Family Research, used her skills and network as a genealogist to identify the heirs to books held in the Nuremberg Stadtbibliothek that are slated for restitution.

In December 2023, LBI marked the 25th anniversary of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art with a program featuring Stuart Eizenstat, the advisor to multiple White House administrations who helped achieve the landmark agreement on art restitution in 1988. In a conversation that included Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight against Antisemitism Felix Klein, Claims Conference representative Karen Heilig, and Yeshiva University Museum Director Gabriel Goldstein, Eizenstat identified both great strides toward justice as well as an enormous amount of work left to do.

Franklin was inspired to reach out to Leibl Rosenberg, a member of the Nuremberg Jewish Community with whom she had previously worked to locate the descendants of owners of looted books. It was time to continue on the trail.

Some years ago, over 9,000 books looted by the infamous Nazi party official and antisemitic propagandist Julius Streicher were handed over to the Jewish community in Nuremberg and are now held by the Stadtbibliothek there. The rightful owners of more than 2,000 of them have been identified. The ongoing research project coordinated by Rosenberg to identify the heirs has resulted in the return of over 1,000 books. Hundreds are still in the library collection awaiting return.

Franklin enlisted assistance from volunteers, e.g. from the Kalikow Jewish Genealogy Center at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, to review the list of books with heirs yet unidentified, and within a few weeks, the descendants of over a dozen original owners had been located and notified. According to Karen, “the work to restitute these books has been incredibly fulfilling. The families are deeply moved to have their ancestral legacies returned to them.”

The research has taken some interesting twists and turns. While proceeds from restituted works of art may be divided among heirs, the books themselves are of little monetary value, and in some cases, there are several family members who would like to receive the books. Other heirs have offered to donate their volumes to LBI, and this process is ongoing.

In the case of a book belonging to Julius Bravmann, Rosenberg was able to provide extensive information about the family. This was of great interest to the descendants of Ludwig Bravmann. Bravmann died in 2022 at the age of almost 100, just days after LBI’s Senior Historian, Frank Mecklenburg conducted a series of interviews with him. His daughter Judy Kaufthal was able to confirm her family’s connection to Julius Bravmann with the help of her aunt, who is 103 years old! The book will be restituted in the coming weeks. Transcripts of the interviews are available on the LBI website.

For more information, to volunteer to assist in identifying heirs, or to receive a list of the books currently available for restitution, contact Karen Franklin at

From LBI News No. 117