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Rare Nazi Book Marked 'Secret' Found by Library Staff in La Grange Park

Ursula Stanek, a director at the La Grange Park Public Library, discovered a rare piece of German history in a book marked "secret."

OUTSIDE CHICAGO, IL -- Books given to the for donation get dropped off with regularity. Some are added to the library's collection, others are sold off, and some find their way into the trash.

A trip to the trash bin might have been the case with one particular book if not for Circulation Services Director Ursula Stanek taking a special interest in it this spring.

Stanek, who grew up in Germany and moved to the United States at age 21, noticed something a little different about this book. It was marked, "Geheim!" — the German word for secret.

"People drop off books all the time," Stanek said. "If there's one that's in German it goes to my desk. I didn't realize what it was until I started to look through it."

The book turned out to be a rare Nazi artifact titled 1938-1941: Vier Jahre, Hermann-Göring-Werke. The book describes a four-year Nazi economic plan for a steel-producing industrial site in the town of Salzgitter, Germany, during World War II. According to the library, the book was given away to workers at the steel mill as a Christmas gift.

Also found in between the book's pages was the letterhead of Nazi commander Hermann Göring and an envelope with a return address printed on it.

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Stanek said she first thought about selling the book on eBay.

"I thought we could raise some money for the library's benefit," Stanek said. "I wasn't sure what to do with it, but then I thought that something like this—of historical importance—should be for the public."

Stanek went to work trying to find more information about the book, first contacting a museum in Germany.

"It's a piece of German history," Stanek said. "I thought it should go back there."

When no one returned her phone call, she reached out to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. But again, her call was not returned.

Finally, she called the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Stanek took the book with her to the museum while on a trip to visit her daughter in Washington D.C. in May.

"They recognized the title right away," Stanek said.

The museum actually had already purchased a reproduced copy of the book at one point, but curators there were thrilled to receive an original copy.

Only Known Copy in U.S.

According to Lenore Bell, library director at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Stanek's find is very significant. Bell said that to her knowledge, the book is the only known copy in a U.S. library or museum. Several copies are known to exist in Europe, she said.

The addition of finding the letterhead and the envelope was significant as well for Bell.

"We actually ended up with two artifacts that way," Bell said.

Bell said she couldn't share the valuation of the book, but said that the museum knew it was a rare find because it is from a numbered edition, meaning only so many copies existed in the first place.

"With materials that are so unique... it can be difficult to come up with a general figure," Bell said.

The fact that the material will now be available to researchers is the real value of the book, she said. The book has been entered into the library's database and cataloged. Researchers looking for a window into the past in relation to the company that produced the book, or the economic plan for Nazi Germany, will now be able to view the material and learn from it.

A Library Mystery

How the rare book turned up in La Grange Park is still a mystery to the library staff, Stanek said. No one recalls who dropped off the book, and so far, no one has come forward claiming to be the donor.

Stanek said she's been surprised by all the attention. She said that when she recently attended a cookout at a park near her home, everyone already knew about the book.

"They had read the [news] articles, and I didn't even know there were any," Stanek said.

Stanek said she was just happy that the book found a suitable home and that she was able to recognize its historical significance.

"It was nice to be able to give it to [the museum]," Stanek said. "They were very pleased to get it."

Stanek said the La Grange Park library has a collection of rare books, which patrons sometimes come in to look at, but she knew of nothing else in the library's collection like this.

"It's just a mystery," she said.

And so it may remain.

Cindy Halpern September 27, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I looked at all the comments and some of you can not understand how my mother and her family endured the Holocaust. Some of my family perished. But some of you don't appreciate the awful suffering caused by the Nazis. You are the ones who need an education. The local Holocaust Museum in Glen Cove is the perfect place to start that education.
Cindy Halpern November 09, 2012 at 06:19 PM
It is very sad for me that my mother, who survived the Holocaust, is reaching the end of her days. Of course, I shall miss her, but I am worried that there are very few people left who can give an eyewitness account. These comments relating to what I original wrote worry me. People forget easily what the Nazis and actually blame me, as the daughter of a survivor, for my anger, saying I need help. I will never forgive or forget what the Nazis did.
Anton November 28, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I understand what you are saying Cindy, you are right people do tend to forget. I do not think the education system teaches about the holocaust they way it did when we were in school. There will always be memorials and museums to ensure that people never forget but the people have to make that effort to go there. What I find sad is that since the holocaust there have been many other accounts of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Even shortly after the Nazi holocaust Josef Stalin continued to persecute the Jewish population and others, then in the 1970s Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and Uganda president Idi Amin had their own holocaust. In the 1990s Slobodan Milosevic in Bosnia was guilty of another holocaust with his genocide and gendercide. Saddam Hussien gassed and murdered millions and the human atrocities and the forced sex slave trade going on in Rwanda for the last 30 years. I wish I could say mankind did learn something from the Nazi holocaust but sadly there will always be another Stalin, Hitler, Amin or Hussien waiting to come to power. I think if more people were taught about these atrocities it would help but sadly many kids today cannot tell you or even name any of these countries even the most famous one with the Nazis, I wish more schools would teach the children about all these holocausts because there is always a face there, like your mother they do have families and it is harder to ignore when they can put a face to it, it becomes more personal.
Cindy Halpern April 13, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Rest in peace, Mom, who was a Holocaust Survivor. September 16, 1921 to April 9, 2013. Love, Your daughter, Cindy Halpern
brutony April 13, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Ditto. Cindy, my condolences!

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