As a sign of “friendship and trust,” the US returned two 16th-century books to Germany today. The tomes were taken by an 18-year-old soldier in 1945, who came across the books in a salt mine in Ransbach, Hessen. He was amazed by the stashabout 2 million books plus 200,000 costumes from the State Opera of Berlin were there, sent underground in 1944 to protect the treasures from incoming troops. (An estimated 15 million books were destroyed in Germany during WWII.) Salt mines were a favorite place to stash valuables because of the mineral’s ability to absorb moisture.
Robert Thomas, of Chula Vista, CA, said he was returning the books after six decades “because it’s the right thing to do.” The US Acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas and German Ambassador Klaus Schiaroth exchanged the books from 1573 and 1593 today in a ceremony in Washington, DC.
US Ambassador J. Christian Kennedy, the US State Departments special envoy for Holocaust issues, thanked Thomas for returning the volumes, according to the statement.
I hope his decision to take this step will serve as an example for others in this country and elsewhere to step forward and return such items displaced during World War II, he said.