Fascinating 17th century 'social document' plundered during WWII recovered after being put up for auction
A beautifully illustrated 17th century diary that was looted during WWII has been returned to Poland after being put up for auction in Germany.
The 563-page manuscript resembling an album and containing poems, dedications, fragments of songs and entries about society members and autographs of important historical figures, is considered an important social document of the times.
Belonging to a local man of ‘high office’ in the city of Wrocław called Melchior Lucas, and written mainly in bilingual Latin-German sentences, the diary’s final pages contain four copper engravings depicting the mortal sins by the famous Flemish painter, sculptor and engraver Jacob van der Heyden (1573-1645).
On September 16, 1943, in fear of bombardment, German Nazis filled 100 wooden numbered crates with the most valuable manuscripts they had plundered and shipped them to a palace in Ramfeld, today's Ramułtowice, about 25km from Wrocław.
From that moment the fate of the monument remained unknown until it turned up at an auction house in Germany in April 2018.
Learning of the sale, Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage quickly verified the diary’s authenticity before intervening and asking the sale be put on hold.
Earlier this month, during the ceremonial handover of the valuable document at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Warsaw, deputy culture minister Magdalena Gawin underlined the importance of the album’s recovery.
She said: “Thanks to the cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the University of Wrocław, it has been possible to recover a very valuable item – an album, a kind of a diary in which very important issues concerning the history of Wrocław and Lower Silesia were written down.
“The recovery of any kind of artefact, whether it’s an album, an archaeological find or a painting, is hugely joyous for us.”
Director of the University Library in Wrocław Grażyna Piotrowicz, added that manuscripts such as this “document a cross-section of society and often contain very valuable details that show the mentality of society and thus constitute a document of the epoch or period, and of course of the life of the owner of such an album”.