Austrian Federal Chancellery (07/20/2009)
Vienna – In July, 2009, some 8,000 books from the library of Arthur Schnitzler will be taken over by the Austrian National Library in July. Following the death of Lilly Schnitzler, wife of Arthur Schnitzler‘s son Heinrich, who bequeathed his collection to the Austrian National Library, “the valuable library will be recompiled. Its fate reflects Austria‘s contemporary history,“ as stated in a press release.
In 1940 the library of the Jewish author, who died in 1931, was confiscated by the Gestapo and, according to a letter written by the Gestapo: “left for use of the National Library at will.“ In 1946 actor and director Heinrich Schnitzler submitted a restitution claim to the National Library. According to the National Library, the restitution case appears typical of the manner in which opportunists viewed their responsibility toward returning property in the years following the war. In other words, it recognized the claim but it reacted slowly and with hesitation, failing to express any understanding of injustice on the part of the claimant,“ admits the Austrian National Library.
In 1947 those books from his father‘s library which could still be retrieved were returned to Heinrich Schnitzler, but it was said that he“ expressed disappointment over the outrageous handling of the matter on the part of those responsible for returning them.“ Despite the loss of one-third of the library and of the clearly active role in which the National Library had played in the looting of his property, Schnitzler felt, however, indebted to the Austrian National Library. In his will, Heinrich Schnitzler bequeathed the entire library, research material on the theatre, as well as the original manuscript of “Liebelei“ (“Flirtation“) to the Library. Following his death in 1982, about half of the library had already been taken over.
It took a long time after Heinrich Schnitzler’s death before his assumption was confirmed in that in searching for the confiscated books during the post-war period, there had been inaccuracies when classifying the works. The result of provenance research initiated by Austrian National Library Director General Johanna Rachinger when entering office proved that other objects from Arthur Schnitzler’s library had been discovered. They were returned to Heinrich‘s widow Lilly Schnitzler in 2005.