The Book Smugglers

The Book Smugglers

Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures From the Nazis

Book - 2017
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"The Book Smugglers is the nearly unbelievable story of ghetto residents who rescued thousands of rare books and manuscripts--first from the Nazis and then from the Soviets--by hiding them on their bodies, burying them in bunkers, and smuggling them across borders. It is a tale of heroism and resistance, of friendship and romance, and of unwavering devotion--including the readiness to risk one's life--to literature and art. And it is entirely true. Based on Jewish, German, and Soviet documents, including diaries, letters, memoirs, and the author's interviews with several of the story's participants, The Book Smugglers chronicles the daring activities of a group of poets turned partisans and scholars turned smugglers in Vilna, "The Jerusalem of Lithuania." The rescuers were pitted against Johannes Pohl, a Nazi "expert" on the Jews, who had been dispatched to Vilna by the Nazi looting agency, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, to organize the seizure of the city's great collections of Jewish books. "-- Adapted from book jacket.
Publisher: Lebanon, NH :, ForeEdge, an imprint of University Press of New England,, [2017]
ISBN: 9781512600490
Characteristics: xv, 322 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates ; 25 cm


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Jun 28, 2018

Setting for the book is Vilna, known as the ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’ for its centrality for Jewish studies in Eastern Europe. A group of scholars, poets and librarians are enslaved laborers as the Nazis seek to steal and destroy their literary and religious treasures. With nothing to lose, these heroic men and women ingeniously smuggle artifacts and books to safety, first from the Nazis, then from the Soviets.

Compared to Robert M. Edsel’s 'The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History', which I enjoyed more. The difficulty for Gentile me was being somewhat unfamiliar with the treasures rescued and the book’s detail, given my big stack of books waiting for reading. Skimmed the post-WW II Soviet section.

May 08, 2018

Often painful to read, but important. This is the Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu for WWII.

Mar 17, 2018

Deeply researched, spellbinding.


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