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Berlin Library returns Books looted by Nazis

Berlin's state library handed back 13 books stolen by the Nazis to the Jewish community Wednesday as the German government pledged to redouble its efforts to return looted cultural treasures.

The emotional ceremony came about thanks to a new drive to research the provenance of state holdings with the aim of restitution, German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said.

"The 13 books being returned today preserve the memory of the Berlin Jewish community which was decimated and its members murdered or driven out," Neumann said. "That is why such projects are so important now and in the future."

The books returned at the event, held in the Centrum Judaicum cultural centre at Berlin's New Synagogue, included 19th and 20th century novels, history books, poetry collections, travel guides and bound newspaper volumes.

The yellowed pages bore fading stamps such as "Jewish Reading Room and Library Berlin" or "Jewish Community-Boys School Berlin". Many of the stamps had been simply covered over for more than six decades with the label of a German state institution.

The library said the origin of about 200,000 of its volumes needed to be researched. About 25,000 books have been investigated in the last 10 years and 5,100 of them categorized as likely stolen under the Nazis, who systematically looted Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues, schools and community centers. Those books that were not torched or lost often found their way to German libraries.

More than 100 books have now been handed back to their rightful owners but the library estimates it will take another 10 years to complete the detective work.