Koyama Noboru
Cambridge University Library

The fate of the Japanese embassy library, Berlin immediately after World War II

After Germany had been defeated in May 1945, Japanese documents and books in Germany were seized by the Allied Powers such as the United States and Britain initially for military intelligence and military tribunals, then for other purposes. Some of them were brought to the United Sates and were microfilmed in Alexandria near Washington D.C. The largest collection of those confiscated Japanese materials in Germany is sometimes described as the Library of Japanese Embassy, Berlin which had contained the Embassy’s books and documents, but also books and private materials of the Japanese nationals who were living in Germany, mainly in Berlin, during the War.

Cambridge University academics, who had been involved in the development of the modern Japanese library collection at the University, were told by a Chinese newspaper correspondent that the Japanese Embassy Library was located in the British Sector of Berlin and that it was intact.  As a result of this information, they started to secure it for Cambridge through the auspices of Britain’s Foreign Office.  In the end, Cambridge could not succeed and its effort was in vain.

The Japanese Embassy Library, which had consisted of about 25,000 volumes or items, was transferred to Bad Oeynhausen where the headquarters of BAOR (the British Army of the Rhine) and CCG/BE (the Control Commission for Germany-British Element) were established at the end of August 1945.  The move of the Japanese Embassy Library from Berlin to Bad Oeynhausen was approved by the US-British Control Council/Control Commission Documents Centre in Frankfurt which was the successor of SHAEF (the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) Documents Centre.

Among 25,000 volumes or items, 5,000 were eventually donated to the University of London with the help of Lt. Col. A. J. Marsden of the Joint Intelligence committee/German Section, approximately 2,500 each to SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies) and SSEES (the School of Slavonic and East European Studies). SOAS received Japanese language books and SSEES Slavonic language books (mainly in Russian and Polish). However,  the rest of them were absorbed into the “Intelligence Library” in Bad Oeynhausen, later in Herford, which had been called GSL (the General Staff Intelligence) Library.  Those remaining 20,000 volumes or items were probably dispersed into various places, including local libraries in Germany. My paper aims to give a short history about the Japanese Embassy Library in Berlin after the War.