THE hunt for millions of books stolen by the Nazis during World War II has been pursued quietly and diligently for decades., but it has largely been out of public view, even as the search for lost art drew headlines.

The plundered volumes seldom carried the same glamour as the looted paintings, which were often masterpieces worth millions of dollars.

But recently with little fanfare, the search for the books intensified, driven by researchers in America and Europe who have developed a road map of sorts to track the stolen books, many of which are still hiding in plain sight in library shelves through out Europe.

Their work has been aided by newly opened archives., the Internet and the growing number of  European librarians who have made such archives a priority, researchers say.

''People have looked away so long,'' said Andrew Rydell, author of  ''The Book Thieves : The Nazi Looting of  Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance,''  ''but I don't think they can anymore.''

IN Germany last year, the University of Potsdam library gave an important 16-century volume back to the family of its owner, a man killed in a concentration camp in 1943.

The book, written by a rabbi in 1564, explains the fundamentals of the Torahs 613 commandments. The owners grandson identified it from a list of looted works that had been posted online.Then he and his father, a Holocaust survivor flew from Israel to Germany to retrieve it.

''It was quiet an emotional experience for my father and myself,'' said the grandson, David Schor.

Ms. Grimstead's work on tracking the lost volumes has advanced considerably since 1990,, when she discovered 10 lists of items looted from the libraries in France by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, a task force headed by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg .

The task force plundered more than 6,000 libraries and archives all over Europe but left behind detailed records that have proved invaluable in tracing what was stolen.

The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Milton Esterow.


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