Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Spoils Of War

Oj mamo!

Once again, one of our friends in New Europe - Poland - is providing one of their neighbors with a guided discovery on just where the bear goes in the woods.

Germany, Poland Fight Over Manuscripts

A priceless manuscript at a Polish library shows how Mozart wrote down his Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major - neat, small notes, no corrections.

Its neighbor in the collection, Beethoven's original copy of the third movement of his Symphony No. 8, bears witness to his creative agonies, with furious jottings and deletions.

Both manuscripts are towering monuments of Germanic culture.

But they've been in Poland since World War II - and despite pressure from the German government Poland says it has no intention of giving them back.

The documents at the Jagiellonian Library are among tens of thousands of manuscripts the Nazis took out of Berlin's national library to protect from Allied bombings. They were initially moved to a military fortress and then hidden away in a remote Benedictine monastery. After the war, Polish authorities transported the manuscripts to the university library in Krakow.

A recent article in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung referred to the manuscripts from the former Prussian State Library as "the last German prisoners of war."

That stirred an angry response from Poland, which called German claims for their return "entirely groundless."


German hopes of regaining the collection offend many in Poland, which lost 6 million people and vast cultural treasures, including an estimated 22 million books and hundreds of thousands of art works, in nearly six years of German World War II occupation.

Bitterness over the war surfaces often between the two countries. At a European Union summit this summer, Poland insisted that Germany accept its demand for voting powers disproportionate to its size, saying its population would be much larger today had Germany not killed so many Poles.

A key issue is that the manuscripts from Berlin were not taken by the Soviet army, as were many German cultural items at the end of the war, but left behind by the Germans in territory that later became Poland.

Pietrzyk said it was fortunate that in 1945 a team of Polish librarians found this part of the Prussian Library collection - which contains roughly 100,000 items - in the Benedictine monastery at Krzeszow, formerly Grussau, just in time to save it from possible looters. Fifteen of the 505 wooden chests holding it had already been destroyed or stolen.

The collection, which contains manuscripts by romantic poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, was part of a total of about 3 million items that were evacuated from Berlin libraries between 1941-44. It first went to the Fuerstenberg, or Ksiaz, fortress in the Sudety mountains, and then on to Krzeszow, when the fortress was earmarked as a facility for Adolf Hitler.

Poland "legally took custody of the Prussian Library items, which the Germans had left unattended" while fleeing the Red Army, Foreign Ministry spokesman Robert Szaniawski said.

Tono Eitel, the chief German negotiator for the return of cultural objects, was quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as calling Germany's loss of the treasures a "wound in Germany's cultural life."
May that wound fester and become gangrenous. May the cultural life of der Fatherland be eternally scarred by her Nazi past. May the Blood of the Innocents be upon Germany and its people until the end of time.

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