From Bremen to Notre Dame: The Acquisition of a German Postwar Book Collection

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WESSWeb > WESS Newsletter > Spring 2014 > From Bremen to Notre Dame


In the summer of 2012, the Hesburgh Libraries at the University of Notre Dame purchased a significant collection of books from the private library of Professor Emeritus Dr. Joachim Dyck of Bremen, Germany. While Professor Dyck was at Notre Dame for a semester several years ago as Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor, I became acquainted with him during the course of aiding his research needs in Hesburgh Library. Since then, we have kept in touch, and I learned of his intent to sell his unique collection. Thanks to generous funding from the President's Circle and the support of University Librarian Diane Parr Walker, the acquisition of this collection has become a reality. Professor Dyck, who has many fond recollections of Notre Dame and his time here, was especially happy to know that his library would be coming to the University.

The collection, which comprises roughly 4,000 German imprints, chiefly from the period 1945-1950 in the fields of literature, literary history and criticism, politics, history, philosophy and theology, is in the process of being cataloged and assessed for selective preservation treatment. Titles cataloged to date may be accessed through the Hesburgh Libraries catalog under an assigned title entry, "Dyck collection of German postwar publishing," in addition to the usual author, title, or subject entries. In the interim, while the collection is being cataloged in detail, a brief entry inventory of the entire collection is also available in PDF format upon request.

Cataloging the Collection: A Moving Experience

Many of the volumes in this collection were printed on the cheap paper of the times, now brown with age. Similar to my first trip to Berlin, my encounter with these books evokes in me a shudder, a moving sense of observing or touching a living artifact of history. What must those times have been like, in Germany, in the shadow of the nightmare years 1933-1945, now a life in the ruins, dazed, with the bitter taste of horrors still strong. The loss of a social mosaic that would never be recoverable in its historical forms. Shame. Bitter memories and sorrow. Undoubtedly with some living in denial. And yet... hope for a new day, a new world. Indeed, the name of one of the new publishing houses founded in the ruins of Berlin in 1945, Aufbau Verlag, is symptomatic of a spirit of hope in those times, its name conveying the idea of building up--although, alas, it was to become a vehicle of socialist ideology in the repressive East German state. Richard Tüngel writes in the preface to Josef Müller-Marein's artistic reflection on life in Germany in the shadow of the Third Reich and its aftermath, Cavalcade 1946: "Es sind nicht die Ruinen und die Trümmer, in denen wir leben...": "It is not the ruins and the rubble in which we live, the lack of everything that up to then had seemed necessary, not the hunger, misery and poverty of a great people; it is the transformation in people, their disposition and actions, that gives us courage as the birth of a new time." Titles such as Auf dem Wege zum neuen Staat: die deutsche Aufgabe [On the Road to a New State: the German Task] reflect this mentality.

And then a refreshingly distractive book turns up—Tageslauf der Unsterblichen: Szenen aus dem Alltagsleben berühmter Männer [Daily Life of the Immortals: Scenes from the Everyday Life of Famous Men]. The volume is aesthetically pleasing, the content is refreshingly removed from the deadliness of postwar testimonies. Indeed, one may venture to say that much of the spectrum of human experience and expression is represented in this collection of books, from despair to hope and everything in between, with a good bit of the disinterestedly scientific and philosophical mixed in. In my role as a cataloger, my modus operandi aims for a reasonable amount of efficiency and productivity. Yet I find myself riveted by turns to one or the other book in this collection, testimonials to those times, especially to this one or that Aus jenen Zeiten [From Those Times], to quote one of the titles. The testimony I find is often moving, sometimes surprising or even trying, coming in many forms: varied genres of literary art ranging from the parabolic to the superficial; source documents from the War years; translations of American, Russian and French literature and treatises; addresses to the nation; theological, philosophical, historical and biographical monographs; political treatises concerned with the emerging divide between socialism and democracy, between the Soviet Union and the West, with the attendant threat of nuclear annihilation at the dawn of a long Cold War; and incredibly, even works that would lead one to believe that nothing monumental has just concluded, so oblivious do they seem in their focus on the insignificant or detachedly academic. In the final analysis, I believe that what is of particular significance about this collection is not the indisputable value or scarcity of many of the individual titles represented, but the aggregate availability of them all in one library, able to be collocated ad hoc under a single catalog access point, allowing for convenient use by any student of these times.

Robert L. Kusmer
Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame

Assessment by Dr. Joachim Dyck, Professor emeritus, Universität Oldenburg

Professor Dyck has written the following account of the genesis and value of his former library. With his permission, I am pleased to provide here my translation from the German.

In 1965, while browsing in a Berlin antiquarian bookshop, I discovered the text of a speech by Thomas Mann entitled Ansprache im Goethejahr 1949 in Frankfurt (Address in the Goethe Year 1949 in Frankfurt), published by Suhrkamp from within the American zone. Next to it lay the Ansprache im Goethejahr 1949 which Mann had presented in the "German Democratic Republic" in Weimar, thus from within the Soviet zone. Suddenly it was as if blinders had fallen from my eyes, for I realized that I knew little about the book publishing activity that had taken place in the postwar military zones and in divided Germany. I began to collect in earnest and succeeded in assembling a collection that would provide a good picture of publishing in that time and place through the acquisition of first editions of books and brochures.

It had not taken long for the large, old publishing houses of Rowohlt, Suhrkamp, Erich Schmidt or Gustav Kiepenheuer to return to activity in 1945, as they re-entered the market with new titles. Productivity was greatest in the American zone, and it often involved communicating to Germans a picture of America that was completely unlike the one that they had become accustomed to during the Nazi dictatorship. Anthologies made their appearance bearing titles such as Amerika im deutschen Gedicht (America in German Poetry) or Amerikanische Lyrik des XX. Jahrhunderts (American Lyric Poetry of the 20th Century).

Germans became acquainted with American history, with the foundations of democracy. There was a focus on the "geistige Grundlagen der politischen Parteien" (intellectual foundations of political parties) (Rainer Barzel); the varied development in the individual military zones became a theme, and the democracy of the Western sectors was compared with the state-capitalist system of the Soviet occupation zone. Questions regarding full engagement in a free society were discussed, and above all, the military and political consequences of atomic energy debated.

The Nuremberg trials against indicted Nazi leaders were the subject of various brochures and books. The tenets of dialectical materialism were delineated; biographies of prominent Nazis appeared, but also portrayals of the course of the war and the critical relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. The literature that dealt with the political relationships within the military zones comprised about 1,000 titles.

Moreover, the re-commencement of a distinctive German literature is here represented in about 1,500 works of the most varied literary genres. Yet these are mainly not by established authors such as Döblin, Fallada, Flake, Goes, Jünger, Langgässer or Reinhold Schneider, whose works at this time were appearing in printings of 4,000-5,000 copies. Rather, they constituted above all a rich literature of remembrance vis-à-vis twelve years of National Socialist rule, and a new beginning for German literature in the forms of novels, short fiction and plays written in a free society.

With the acquisition of this collection, the Library at Notre Dame has placed itself in a strong position among American academic libraries, for the collection provides an overview of postwar publishing in Germany unlike any held elsewhere at a single location in the United States. The researcher of postwar Germany and of the questions that concerned Germans at that time will find here an invaluable aggregation of source material.

Yet the Library at Notre Dame will be challenged in the task of preserving this collection, for the quality of paper used at that time certainly left much to be desired. Many volumes will need a variety of professional preservation treatments. This was known in advance, and, thankfully, the funding took this into account to some degree. Associate Librarian Robert Kusmer wisely saw beyond the physical preservation challenges of these imprints to their value as witnesses to their time. The University is indebted to him for the acquisition of this collection.

Prof.em. Dr. Joachim Dyck
Bremen, Oct. 2012

Gallery of the Times

The cover images assembled here represent a snapshot of the spectrum and tenor of postwar German publishing found in the collection. They are arranged into recurring categories and genres.

Persecution of the Jews: personal narratives and literary representation
Jan Petersen. Unsere Strasse: eine Chronik geschrieben im Herzen des faschistischen Deutschlands, 1933/34. Berlin: Dietz, 1948.
Grete Weil. Ans Ende der Welt. Berlin: Volk und Welt, 1949.

Persecution of the Jews:  personal narratives and literary representationPersecution of the Jews:  personal narratives and literary representation


Letters "from those times"
Lilli Vetter, comp. Briefe aus jener Zeit. Berlin: Arnold, 1948.
Helmuth James, Graf von Moltke. Letzte Briefe aus dem Gefängnis Tegel. Berlin: Henssel, 1951.

Letters "from those times"Letters "from those times"


In memoriam: Christian witness
Eberhard Bethge, ed. Bonhoeffer Gedenkheft. Berlin: Haus und Schule, 1947.
Harald Poelchau. Die letzten Stunden: Erinnerungen eines Gefängnispfarrers / aufgezeichnet von Graf Alexander Stenbock-Fermor. Berlin: Volk und Welt, 1949.

In memoriam: Christian witnessIn memoriam: Christian witness


Holocaust documentation
KL Auschwitz. Kraków: Comité international d'Auschwitz, [194- ].

Holocaust documentationHolocaust documentation


Perspectives on the times in poetry and treatise
Emil Barth. Xantener Hymnen. Hamburg: Claassen & Goverts, 1948.
Alfred Dedo Müller. Prometheus oder Christus: die Krisis im Menschenbild und Kulturethos des Abendlandes. Leipzig: Meiner, 1948.

Perspectives on the times in poetry and treatisePerspectives on the times in poetry and treatise


On the threshold of divided Europe, yet hopeful for the future
Kurt Hiller. Geistige Grundlagen eines schöpferischen Deutschlands der Zukunft: Rede zu Hamburg am 31. Mai 1947 auf Einladung des Kulturrats der Hansestadt. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1947.
Hans Nicklisch, Walther G. Oschilewski, eds. Der Phönix 1947: ein Almanach für junge Menschen. Berlin-Wannsee: Blanvalet, 1947.
Ernst Wiechert. Rede an die deutsche Jugend, 1945. München: Desch, 1945.
Gerold von Minden. Europa zwischen USA und UdSSR: Grundlagen der Weltpolitik seit Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Bamberg: Bamberger Verlagshaus Meisenbach, 1949.

On the threshold of divided Europe, yet hopeful for the futureOn the threshold of divided Europe, yet hopeful for the future


On the threshold of divided Europe, yet hopeful for the futureOn the threshold of divided Europe, yet hopeful for the future


Diversions of the academy and the imagination
Ernst Bloch. Subjekt-Objekt: Erläuterungen zu Hegel. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag,1951.
Ulrich Küntzel. Traditionelle und philosophische Logik. Hamburg: Oetinger,1948.
Ruth Hoffmann. Umgepflanzt in fremde Sommerbeete. Berlin: Chronos, 1948.

Diversions of the academy and the imaginationDiversions of the academy and the imagination
Diversions of the academy and the imaginationDiversions of the academy and the imagination


A new literature between West and East
Elizabeth Langgässer. Der Torso. Hamburg: Claassen & Goverts, 1947.
Anna Seghers. Transit: Roman. Konstanz: Weller, 1948.

A new literature between West and EastOA new literature between West and East



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