Max Heyn

Dr Max Heyn, solicitor

Rechtsbeistand für Rückerstattungs und Entschadigungssachen, Sodener Straße 30, Berlin-Wilmersdorf

Also at Mecklenburgische Straße 57, Berlin-Wilmersdorf

Dr Max Heyn was a forced labourer under the National Socialist regime, working under a perhaps little-understood or discussed area of Nazi policies.

Dov Schidorsky at the University of Texas has published (in Libraries & Culture, Vol. 33, No. 4, Fall 1998) a piece available online, titled Confiscation of Libraries and Assignments to Forced Labor, in which he presents documents that testify to “the fate of Jewish library collections … and to the inhuman conditions which prevailed in the library division of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) in Berlin” (p. 347). In a detailed picture of the collections themselves, he outlines, “The Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction at the end of World War II estimated that there were 469 Jewish collections in existence in 1933, comprising approximately 3,307,000 volumes” (p. 348). These figures apparently account only for collections comprising over 1000 volumes; clearly, many smaller local collections should also be accounted for, as he states.

Schidorsky goes on to observe that while many such items were retained, nominally for ‘Research into the Jewish Question’, many thousands more are estimated to have been destroyed. Records were not kept on the collections destroyed, so it is impossible to know how much was lost to Nazi destruction, as well as to Allied bombing raids and to fires in unsafe buildings.

Most people reading this will know something of the destruction of books in Germany from 1933 onwards, though few may realise that Jews were forbidden to use libraries after the November 1938 pogroms, and that Jewish homes were also emptied of their books and documents: as with all other property and belongings, when people were deported, their books were taken under the control of the state.

Initially, items went to the Reich Treasury, in a system “which was broken by the intervention of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office, hereafter RSHA). The RSHA was unwilling to wait for the Treasury to throw a few crumbs to its RSHA offices. In its capacity as the body responsible for the planning, organization, and execution of the deportations and the task of ridding the Reich of Jews, it could ‘secure’ property before the Jews were deported. Thus, those dealing with the contents of Jewish apartments were given orders to deliver the private book collections to the RSHA” (p. 349).

Much of the rest of Schidorsky’s article consists of two testimonies, as follows: “The first part of the document describes the inhuman conditions under which the forced labor was conducted. The second and third parts (Appendixes 1 and 2) give details of the Jews who worked as forced laborers at the RSHA library. The last part (Appendix 3) is a letter to Adolf Eichmann regarding the suitability of a number of the workers and the tasks they were to be given, based on a previously held conversation with two officers of the RSHA” (p. 366).

The testimony from Max Heyn and his colleagues is attached here: Max_Heyn Notes