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European Mission and Cooperative Acquisitions Project at the Library of Congress

This research guide provides historical information and reports related to this collaboration of American libraries to first acquire World War II-era publications in Germany and then to distribute these materials to U.S. research libraries.


Breitkopf & Härtel, music publishers, Leipzig. 1946. One of 30 photographs donated by Richard S. Hill, Library of Congress Music Division Representative to the Mission. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This guide includes general information about the Library of Congress (LC) European Mission, a collaboration of American libraries to acquire World War II-era publications in Germany, and lists resources available for further study at the Library of Congress.

Military conflict in during World War II disrupted communications between the Library of Congress and American libraries from European publishers and booksellers. Beginning in 1939, German naval forces attacked Atlantic shipping lanes making travel and shipping hazardous. Some materials that American libraries purchased were destroyed, confiscated, or never shipped at all. In 1942, American libraries developed the LC European Mission to cooperatively purchase publications after the war. Librarians from a variety of repositories traveled to Germany in 1946, where they joined with military and intelligence personnel to acquire publications and set up purchase agreements with publishers and booksellers. The materials acquired by the LC European Mission were distributed according to prior agreements with American libraries that participated in the Cooperative Acquisitions Project.

History of the European Mission

The objective of the LC Mission is to assist the War Department in screening and forwarding stocks of books held by the War Department in Germany for the use of the Department here and for distribution through it to American libraries, to locate and forward stocks of books accumulated on pre-war orders, and to make purchases of library materials for American libraries. In addition, Mr. [Harry M.] Lydenberg will make inquiries regarding the present state of the book trade and of libraries in Europe, regarding possibilities of interlibrary cooperation, and regarding location of copies of publications of the war years with a view to developing republication programs if necessary. The Mission will function under the War Department in behalf of American libraries generally.1

The Library of Congress European Mission was organized by a consortium of scholarly associations and research libraries to purchase war-era publications in Germany after World War II. The Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and the Association of Research Libraries asked the U.S. State Department to allow the LC European Mission to purchase publications in Germany on behalf of American repositories. After World War II ended in May 1945, former Intelligence officer Reuben Peiss was selected as first Chief of the LC European Mission operation in Germany. In January 1946, a group of librarians recruited from a variety of American repositories traveled to Germany to join the LC Mission. This group included David C. Clift, from Columbia University Library, Dr. Harry M. Lydenberg, representing the American Library Association, Richard S. Hill, a Library of Congress music reference librarian, Julius Allen of the Library of Congress Legislative Reference Service, Don Carlos Travis from the U.S. Office of Censorship, Daniel Shacter of the U.S. State Department, and Janet Emerson from the Library of Congress, Acquisitions Division. They were stationed at military facilities in the American occupation zone of Germany and Austria and acted under authority of the U.S. War Department and the U.S. occupation government, OMGUS.

The LC European Mission also acquired materials confiscated by the military and cleared by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS). Under military authority, all materials owned, created, or published by the Nazi regime were carefully reviewed by the LC European Mission to ensure any restitutable materials were transferred to appropriate authorities. Suitable materials were then shipped to the Library of Congress to be distributed to 115 libraries and scholarly societies worked with the Library of Congress through the Cooperative Acquisitions Project to distribute the war-era publications, as well as Nazi materials, to American repositories according to agreements each of the repositories made with the Library of Congress. The Mission sent a delegation to arrange to purchase publications from Leipzig, which was located in the Soviet sector of occupied Germany, and to arrange shipment of books that had been purchased prior to the war. Mission agents also sent publications from Vienna, Austria.2

Origins of the Cooperative Acquisitions Project

[The] Library's outstanding accomplishment of 1946, an accomplishment which is differentiated both by experience and result from the record of other years, has been connected with undertakings wherein the Library has shared its special privileges, and channels of communication, and unique facilities with other research libraries in the United States. Let it be said at once that for us the adventure in cooperation has been exhilarating, gratifying, and filled with promise for the future.3

Librarian of Congress Luther Evans worked with the Intergovernmental Committee for the Acquisition of Foreign Publications (Office of War Information, Department of State, Department of Treasury, Department of Agriculture, Office of the Coordinator of Information, Department of Commerce, Office of Scientific Research and Development, and War Department) to coordinate the distribution of materials to government and research repositories.

On September 19, 1945, Librarian of Congress Luther Evans appointed the following persons to a Committee to Advise on the Distribution of Foreign Acquisitions to represent libraries and research interests:

  • American Library Association - Robert B. Downs, director University of Illinois Library, chairman, ALA Board on Resources
  • Inter-Departmental Committee for the Acquisition of Foreign Publications - Thomas P. Fleming, assistant director, Harvard University Library
  • National Research Council - George W. Corner
  • American Council of Learned Societies - Donald Goodchild
  • Social Sciences Research Council - Elbridge Sibley
  • American Council on Education - David Allan Robertson, president Goucher College

This Committee created the Cooperative Acquisitions Project to carry out the distribution of materials collected by the Library of Congress European Mission and 350 libraries were invited to participate by agreeing to share acquisition, cataloging, and shipment costs with the Library of Congress and to accept responsibility for building and maintaining certain subject area specialties for the publications they received.


  1. Librarian of Congress Luther Evans. "Librarian's Report." December 22-28, 1945. Library of Congress Information Bulletin. Back to text
  2. Robert B. Downs, Wartime Co-operative Acquisitions, The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Jul., 1949), pp. 157-165. Back to text
  3. Luther Evans, Librarian of Congress, from "Enterprises in Cooperation," Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress 1946. External Back to text