September 15, 2022

THE BOOK THIEVES by Anders Rydell

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Print Length: 368 pages


In The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell, a Swedish journalist, documents the little-known effort by Heinrich Himmler and Alfred Rosenberg to plunder millions of books from libraries, historic repositories and private homes throughout Europe and the Soviet Union during World War II. As they focused on books collected by Jews, Freemasons, Communists, and dissident intellectual communities, the German leaders sought to erase the culture and history of those groups with whom they disagreed. Rydell documents the millions of valuable books that were stolen. He also recounts the heroic efforts by the archivists who tried to prevent priceless books and artifacts from being taken, as well as their daunting post-war efforts to return these materials to their rightful owners.


Holahan, David, “The Book Thieves’ reveals the story of the Nazi assault on books.” The Christian Science Monitor, February 15, 2017.

Valanzola, Ashley, “Stealing memories: On Anders Rydell’s “The Book Thieves,” Los Angeles Review of Books, December 26, 2017.


  • The Nazis believed the history of the Jewish people might live on through the books they left behind. To what extent do books provide a record of our collective experiences for future generations?

  • Nazi leaders tried to eliminate writers who represented ideologies with which they disagreed. To what extent can efforts to censure or stifle certain types of thought succeed? Are there ever any limits that should be placed on freedom of expression?

  • In certain states, efforts are now being made to ban certain books in school libraries. What standards should be used to determine the types of books school-aged children should be able to access?

  • Rydell comments, “Robbing people of words and narrative is a way of imprisoning them.” Are there countries or groups of people whose written narratives are being suppressed today? Should more efforts be made to assure the voices of less represented groups can be heard?

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