A Book from France, stolen 1940
Object of the month April 2021
Published in 1920, the book "Le fond de la mer (The Seabed)" by the French marine zoologist Louis Joubin describes the oceans, their inhabitants and their use. The stamps on the title page are quite interesting. They provide information about the book's history.
The red stamp imprint is that of the Institut und Museum für Meereskunde (Institute and Museum of Oceanography) which was founded in Berlin in 1900. It had model ships and nautical charts exhibitions as well as an extensive research library. The museum was closed during the Second World War and never reopened again. Its collections were later divided up among different institutions. Today, the Deutsches Technikmuseum retains some of the individual museum pieces and most of the library, of which this book is an example.
The second stamp imprint, however, comes from a girls' school in Pontlevoy, a small town near Tours, France. How the book made its way from there to the Institut und Museum für Meereskunde is revealed by old acquisition registries in which there is a listing for each new book. The volume from Pontlevoy was donated to the library by the German Military Administration in 1941. Indeed Pontlevoy had been occupied by German troops in 1940. It is thus reasonable to assume that the book was either stolen by a soldier at the time or the school library was deliberately looted.
The girls' school was closed in 1942. Today there is a secondary school in the same location, It was only through a collaborative effort by the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS) and the French Embassy in Berlin that it was able to be found. A return of the book is planned for spring 2021 in Pontlevoy.