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    Secrets of Hitler's Forgotten Library

    He was, of course, a man better known for burning books than collecting them, yet by the time he died, at 56, Hitler owned an estimated 16,000 volumes. It was by any measure an impressive collection: first editions of the works of philosophers, historians, poets, playwrights and novelists. For him, the library represented a Pierian spring, that metaphorical source of knowledge and inspiration. He drew deeply there, quelling intellectual insecurities and nourishing fanatic ambitions. He read voraciously, at least one book per night, sometimes more, he claimed. “When one gives, one also has to take,” he once said. “I take what I need from books.”

    He ranked Don Quixote, along with Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gulliver’s Travels, among the great works of world literature. “Each of them is a grandiose idea unto itself,” he said. In Robinson Crusoe he perceived “the development of the entire history of mankind”. Don Quixote captured “ingeniously” the end of an era. He was especially impressed by Gustave Doré’s depictions of Cervantes’s delusion-plagued hero.

    He also owned the collected works of William Shakespeare, published in German translation in 1925 by Georg Müller as part of a series intended to make great literature available to the general public. Volume six includes As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida. The entire set is bound in hand-tooled Moroccan leather, with a gold-embossed eagle, flanked by his initials, on the spine.
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    Lightbulb Secrets of Hitler's Forgotten Library

    There are lots of cool articles on this site! This is just one of them.

    Secrets of Hitler's forgotten library
    Sat 3 May 2003


    AS HE opened the book, a trickle of sandy dust fell out. The paper was stained with candle wax and there was a short black hair nestling between the pages.

    Dr Timothy Ryback, a researcher and journalist, realised no-one had touched the book since its last owner, a Private Adolf Hitler, read it in the trenches during the First World War.

    "I realised this book had never been touched since Adolf Hitler was reading it in his dug-out in 1917,"said Mr Ryback. "After he had finished reading by candlelight, he had closed it and no-one had opened it again."

    For Dr Ryback, an American historian and political analyst, it was a revelatory moment, one that convinced him that there are many secrets still to be uncovered in what is left of Hitler's library.

    In historical terms, the German dictator and architect of the Holocaust may be remembered as a burner of books, but in life, Hitler loved the printed word and boasted a collection somewhere in excess of 16,000 volumes.

    A friend from his teenage years, August Kubzieck, wrote: "I just can't imagine Adolf without books. Books were his world." But generations of historians and biographers have ignored the remaining volumes of Hitler's library, saying they represent only a fraction of the books he once owned and arguing that many were never touched by the Nazi leader.

    Dr Ryback, a Harvard-trained historian who heads the academic think-tank called the Salzburg Seminar, has made it his business to pore over the remnants of the collection which have found their way to the Library of Congress in Washington. He has written an account of his research and findings for the magazine Atlantic Monthly.

    The 1,200 volumes known as the Third Reich Collection were found hidden in Schnapps crates buried in a Munich salt-mine by United States soldiers from the 101 Airborne Division in the spring of 1945. They were delivered to the Library of Congress in 1952.

    The collection was not fully catalogued until 2001, when the "Hitler Library" listed the volumes, indicating which contained the Fuhrer's bookplate - an eagle and a swastika, along with the words Ex Libris Adolf Hitler.

    But scholars such as Ian Kershaw, whose two-volume biography of Hitler won international acclaim, have continued to ignore the forgotten remnants of the book collection.

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