UCLA acquires old medical texts confiscated by Gestapo

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LOS ANGELES – A collection of medical texts that had been confiscated by the Gestapo in the 1930s was recently donated to the University of California, Los Angeles.

The materials were originally in the private library of Dr. Caesar Hirsch, who was forced to leave all his belongings when he and his family fled Germany in 1933.

There are 191 book titles and 37 journal titles (filling 733 bound volumes) in the collection. They are in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Most were published in the first three decades of the 20th century, although there are also rare texts from the 1800s and earlier.

The collection was a gift from Peter J. Hearst and Susa Kessler, Hirsch’s son and daughter.

The story. Hirsch was born in Germany in 1885. After completing medical school, he established an ear, nose and throat private practice in Stuttgart, Germany.

In the same month that Adolf Hitler seized full dictatorial power of Germany, Hirsch was warned that his name was on a blacklist and his family was in danger.

The day before the anti-Jewish actions were scheduled to take place in Stuttgart, Hirsch and his family left for Switzerland. They left behind most of their belongings, including Hirsch’s library.

Hirsch and his family later immigrated to the United States, and they changed their last name to Hearst.

Meanwhile, the Nazis revoked Hirsch’s German citizenship and then took away his medical degree.

Hirsch committed suicide in 1940.

The books. In the meantime, Hirsch’s books were confiscated by the Gestapo and then given to the library at the University of Tubingen in Germany. The books filled 29 crates.

In 1999, during an unrelated search, a journalist came across Hirsch’s books at the university and wrote a full-page article, A Present From the Gestapo, detailing the Hirsch family’s life. The journalist contacted Peter Hearst in California and also the university administration.

The university offered to return the books to Hearst and then, following Hearst’s decision, prepared the collection for shipment to the University of California, Los Angeles.

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