BERLIN (JTA) – German police are investigating a fire that destroyed a public book box dedicated to Holocaust history near a memorial at the site from which tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps and death camps in 1941 and 1942.
According to police, the fire at the “Bucherboxx” near the Track 17 memorial at the Berlin Grunewald train station was discovered in the early morning hours of Saturday. Witnesses told German news media they saw a man placing a box inside the former telephone booth that served as the “street library,” and setting it on fire.
An antisemitic note was found on the site, Helmuth Pohren-Hartmann of the Stumbling Block memorial initiative in Berlin-Friedenau told the German news agency dpa. Police have not revealed the content of the alleged note.
The book box, from which any passerby could borrow reading material related to the Holocaust, had been dedicated in 2012. Sustainability activist Konrad Kutt came up with the idea of using decommissioned telephone booths as mini-libraries some 13 years ago, according to the Bucherboxx website. The project has won several awards.
The books in the Track 17 library were almost all destroyed, according to news reports. Plans are under way to replace them.
The Track 17 memorial was dedicated in 1998. Designed by architects Nikolaus Hirsch, Wolfgang Lorch, and Andrea Wandel, it is composed of 186 cast steel plaques arranged in chronological order and set in the ballast next to the platform edge. Each plaque states the date of a transport, the number of deportees, the point of departure in Berlin and the destination.