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[BKARTS] several reports about the Anna-Amalia library fire (30,000 irreplaceable books destroyed)
'Soul of Germany' is devastated by blaze
By Kate Connolly in Berlin
Hundreds of thousands of priceless antique books were feared
destroyed or badly damaged yesterday by a fire that swept through a
16th century German palace.
The Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, central Germany, home to
some of the country's most precious volumes including the world's
largest collection of Faust by the national playwright, Goethe, was
engulfed by flames which destroyed large parts of the building
including the roof.
Flames pour from the library leaving a smouldering ruin Cultural
experts were surveying the extent of the disaster last night after it
emerged that some literary treasures had been rescued due largely to
the bravery and quick-wittedness of library staff.
A 1534 Bible belonging to Martin Luther, the founder of
Protestantism, as well as travel notes by the naturalist and explorer
Alexander von Humboldt, were salvaged along with around 50,000 other
books as staff, firemen and Weimar citizens formed a human chain to
carry the treasures - books, paintings and sculptures - to safety.
Some staff were in tears as firemen were prevented from re-entering
the inferno as the flames took hold of the library, listed as a
Unesco World Heritage site.
Christina Weiss, Germany's culture minister, who hurried to the scene
yesterday morning, could not hide her despair. "A piece of the
world's heritage has been lost forever," she said, close to tears.
"The literary memory of Germany has suffered severe damage," she
added, pledging emergency funds of £2.7 million.
A scorched tome is saved from the fire Among the losses of the
collection, which consisted of a million books, were up to 10,000
original editions of Shakespeare's works, first editions of
Schiller's dramas, part of the collection of the first Weimar
librarian, Daniel Schurzfleisch, and the sheet music collection of
Duchess Anna Amalia.
Most of the books were unique and therefore could not be insured,
Michael Knoche, the head of the library, said.
It was thought that most damage was caused not by the flames but by
smoke and water. Wet books that were collected in skips were placed
in deep freeze later to prevent further disintegration, a technique
practised during the Central European floods in the summer of 2002.
Investigators at the scene of the charred remains of the library,
housed in the former palace residence of the 18th century Duchess
Anna Amalia, were examining claims that the fire was started in the
attic by an electrical fault.
It had spread through the building before reaching the Rococo Hall.
It took more than 300 firemen about three hours to bring the blaze
under control. Local people looked on in despair as they watched the
The duchess, an ardent patron of the arts, succeeded in putting
Weimar on the map in the late 18th century, along with her son Duke
Carl August, who was educated by Martin Wieland, the first translator
of Shakespeare into German.
Her library collection focuses on German classics from 1750 to 1850,
but spans the 16th to 19th centuries. Weimar is most famous as having
been the home of Goethe as well as Schiller, Lucas Cranach the Elder
In the early 20th century the Bauhaus architectural movement was
founded in Weimar.
The city has often been described as being "home to the German soul"
and attracts hundreds of thousands of cultural pilgrims every year.
A new £16 million library to house the Duchess Anna Amalia collection
was due to open in Weimar early next year. Work had already started
on moving the books to the new site.
Weimar's mayor, Volkhard Germer, said he was devastated by the loss,
saying it was a particular blow for cultural Germany.
Weimar had not been hit by such a disaster since a fire in 1772 which
destroyed the duchess's palace, he said. "This is a calamity not seen
since that fire more than three centuries ago," he said.
The fire is the second cultural disaster to hit Germany in as many
weeks. Last month Bonn Opera House was seriously damaged by a roof
fire set off by welders doing repairs.
Thousands of books lost in German library fire
Tens of thousands of irreplaceable books were lost or damaged in a
fire at one of Germany's most precious libraries, though some 6,000
historical works - including a 1543 Martin Luther Bible - were saved
by a daisy chain of people who spirited them away from the flames,
officials said Friday.
Some 25,000 books were destroyed and another 40,000 damaged by water
and smoke in the Thursday night fire in Weimar's Duchess Anna Amalia
Library, housed in a 16th-centry rococo-style palace, said Ulrike
Bestgen, an expert with the Weimar Classics Foundation.
German Culture Minister Christina Weiss pledged up to 4 million
(US$4.87 million) in immediate aid to help repair the building and
restore damaged books, calling the fire a "national culture
catastrophe and a great loss for world heritage."
Investigators were trying to determine the cause of the fire, which
broke out in a top floor after closing hours and raged for some two
hours before 330 firefighters were able to bring it under control.
Among the volumes destroyed were a collection of 18th-century musical
works donated by Duchess Anna Amalia and the renowned book collection
gathered by the first librarian, Daniel Schurzfleisch, who brought
them to the library on 35 horse-drawn carts in 1722, said library
director Michael Knoche.
"This is a painful blow," said Weimar Mayor Volkhard Germer.
During the fire, workers managed to pass 6,000 books, including the
Luther Bible and travel papers by naturalist and explorer Alexander
von Humboldt, hand-to-hand to safety before abandoning their rescue
attempts when the ceiling threatened to cave in, said Hellmut Seeman,
president of the Weimar Classics Foundation.
It is also expected that the volumes damaged by water will be able to
be restored, Bestgen said.
The library holds about 1 million volumes at several places in
Weimar, though the palace is the main location.
Its collection centers on German literature from between 1750 and
1850. During that time, Germany's most revered writer, Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe, lived in Weimar, where his house remains a major
tourist attraction. Friedrich Schiller, best known for his German
classical dramas, spent the last years of his life in Weimar and died
there in 1805.
Weimar, 250 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of Berlin, was put on
Europe's cultural map by Anna Amalia and her son, Duke Carl August,
starting in the mid-18th century. It was Anna Amalia who converted
the palace into a library and made it open to the public.
Fire at famed Weimar library destroys 30,000 priceless volumes 3
WEIMAR - An overnight fire at the famed Duchess Anna Amalia Library
in Weimar may have destroyed 30,000 irreplaceable volumes dating back
to the Renaissance, officials in Germany said Friday.
The fire of unknown origin gutted the attic of the 16th Century
The blaze was extinguished in two hours, but water from firefighting
efforts cascaded into lower floors of the 400-year-old structure,
causing extensive damage to precious books, said Thuringia State
Premier Dieter Althaus.
Besides those books destroyed outright, another 20,000 may have been
damaged so badly as to be irreparable, said Althaus.
The Dowager Duchess Anna Amalia and her son, Duke Carl August, put
Weimar on Europe's cultural map in the late 18th Century. Seeking a
tutor for her son, the duchess hired Christoph Martin Wieland, a well-
known poet and translator of Shakespeare's works.
Anna Amalia also created a library in a 16th century rococo-style
palace, with Wieland's Shakespeare volumes comprising the core of the
It later fell under the supervision of German author and playwright
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and the collection includes the world's
largest "Faust" collection.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library was
home to 850,000 volumes prior to the fire.
Irreplaceable books lost to fire at library
By Jochen Wiesigel
September 4, 2004
WEIMAR, Germany -- A fire that ripped through one of Germany's most
precious historical libraries destroyed or damaged tens of thousands
of irreplaceable books, although 6,000 works, including a 1543 Martin
Luther Bible, were spirited to safety by a chain of people, officials
About 25,000 books were destroyed and 40,000 others were damaged by
water and smoke from the fire Thursday night in Weimar's Duchess Anna
Amalia Library, housed in a 16th century rococo-style palace, said
Ulrike Bestgen, an expert with the Weimar Classics Foundation.
German Culture Minister Christina Weiss pledged up to $4.9 million in
immediate aid to help repair the building and restore damaged books,
calling the fire a "national culture catastrophe and a great loss for
Investigators were trying to determine the cause of the fire, which
broke out in a top floor after the library closed and raged about two
hours before 330 firefighters brought it under control.
Among the volumes destroyed were 18th century musical works donated
by Duchess Anna Amalia and the renowned book collection of the first
librarian, Daniel Schurzfleisch, who brought them to the library on
35 horse-drawn carts in 1722, library Director Michael Knoche said.
German literary treasures lost in fire
Blaze consumes Weimar library founded in 1691
By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER
THE NEW YORK TIMES
BERLIN -- Up to 30,000 irreplaceable books were destroyed in a fire
Thursday night at one of Germany's most historic libraries, although
thousands more were spirited to safety by a chain of people.
Among the literary treasures lost at the Anna-Amalia Library in the
eastern city of Weimar were thousands of works from the 16th to 18th
centuries belonging to the collection of the first Weimar librarian,
Daniel Schurzfleisch, and the sheet music archive of the library's
patron, Anna Amalia (1739-1807), the duchess of Saxony-Weimar.
Another 40,000 books were damaged by smoke and water and are being
frozen in an effort to preserve them so they can be sent to Leipzig
for restoration. The cause of the blaze was unclear.
"The literary memory of Germany has suffered severe damage," German
Culture Minister Christina Weiss said after she inspected the scene.
"A piece of the world's cultural heritage has been lost forever."
Weiss promised that the federal government would offer major
assistance in restoring the books and the library, which is in a 16th-
century rococo palace.
The cost of the damage will probably be in the millions of dollars,
said Hellmut Seemann, the president of the Weimar Classics
Foundation, which manages the library. In a statement, the Weimar
City Council said the market value of the books damaged and destroyed
could not be estimated exactly, because they were unique and not
The fire, which broke out in the attic of the building and then
reached the Rococo Hall, which held much of the collection, raged for
two hours before more than 300 firefighters brought it under control.
But thousands of books, including a 1543 Bible owned by Martin
Luther, were saved when firefighters and Weimar residents formed a
human chain to rescue them. Among the works that survived was the
world's largest collection of copies of Goethe's "Faust."
The library was founded in 1691 and has a collection, in several
locations in Weimar, of about 1 million books, focusing on German
literature from 1750 to 1850.
The collection includes some 2,000 handwritten documents, 8,400 maps
and many historic copies of the Bible.
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