Library and Archives Canada has purchased a book once belonging to Adolf Hitler which the librarians say provides evidence of Nazi ambitions to extend the Holocaust to this continent and serves as an ominous reminder of what might have transpired had Hitler won the Second World War.
Statistics, Media, and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada, a book containing research compiled in 1944 by German linguist Heinz Kloss, is unexceptional in appearance, with a scuffed brown exterior and multiple patches where tears have been repaired. But on the inside of the front cover is a bookplate that identifies it as having come from the collection of the Nazi leader.
The book, which provides details from the 1930s about Jewish populations in cities on this continent – their numbers, their languages and their ethnic origins – was shown to reporters on Wednesday in advance of its first public display Saturday at an event to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“How would a report like this have been used had the Nazis won the war and taken administrative control of North America?” asked Michael Kent, a Library and Archives Canada curator. “This information would have been the building blocks to a rolling out of the final solution in Canada, allowing perpetrators of the Holocaust to know what cities to go to to find Jewish people, and how many Jews to round up."
The Library purchased the book last June from an American bookseller who deals exclusively with Judaica. The bookseller bought it from a Holocaust survivor whose own collection focused on preserving the memories of the atrocities committed by the Germans during the Second World War.
Library staff were sensitive to the possibility that the acquisition could be perceived as a glorification of the Third Reich and its brutal dictator.
But, said Guy Berthiaume, the chief librarian and archivist, it is not the job of libraries to choose only those records that portray past events in a positive light. “I believe it’s up to archives and libraries everywhere to educate and advocate for the most complete historical record possible, no matter how controversial or contentious,” Mr. Berthiaume said.
His employees apparently agree with him. This is the first book acquired by the Library using public donations made through the institution’s website. And, said Mr. Berthiaume, the majority of contributors in this case were members of Library staff.
Martin Sampson, the vice-president of communications for the Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs, a Jewish advocacy group, said he is also supportive of the purchase.
“We are delighted that this document of incredibly important historical significance is in the hands of a responsible collection like Library and Archives Canada,” Mr. Sampson said. “What this document is, more than anything else, is a tool to fight Holocaust denial. And it is a terrible reminder that, had the Nazis won the war, that their ambitions for the Holocaust were global.”
Mr. Kent first noticed Statistics, Media, and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada when it appeared on the social-media site of the American bookseller. He decided to purchase it on behalf of the Library after consulting with officials at other Jewish libraries.
The cost was US$4,500. But “obviously, as a librarian, I prefer to talk about the cultural and historic value of items,” Mr. Kent said. “And I think in terms of what this item reveals to us about the potential for the Holocaust to have become an event that would have happened in Canada is of course invaluable.”
The book is believed to have been taken from Hitler’s alpine retreat at Berchtesgaden, which was captured by the Allies. American soldiers and dignitaries are known to have removed volumes containing the dictator’s bookplate as souvenirs.
Some museums, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, will not carry Hitler memorabilia because they want to commemorate the victims and not the perpetrators, Mr. Kent said. But the mandate of the Library is to collect every book by a Canadian, published in Canada, or about Canada, he said, and the Kloss book qualifies by that measure.
In the collection of the Library it will stand as an important reminder of what was done in Hitler’s Germany, he said, “and we are thrilled that this did not go into neo-Nazi hands.”