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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Fire destroys rare German books
Fire
Firefighters took two hours to bring the flames under control
Thousands of rare books are thought to have been destroyed in a fire at one of Germany's most famous libraries.

But some 6,000 books, including a 1534 Martin Luther bible, were saved before the building became too unstable to continue retrieving them.

Firefighters took two hours to get the fire under control at Weimar's Duchess Anna Amalia Library on Thursday.

"The literary memory of Germany has suffered severe damage," said Culture Minister Christine Weiss.

The fire started on the top floor of the library, housed in a 16th Century palace, although the cause of the blaze is not yet known.

Among the works saved were the travel papers of naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, rescued by people forming a chain to get the books out of the building.

Irreplaceable

Library director Michael Knoche said up to 13,000 historical books were housed in the affected area, focusing on Germany literature between 1750 and 1850.

Paintings of Goethe
Paintings of Goethe were saved

There are fears that water and smoke could also have damaged some of the collection.

Mr Knoche said he could not estimate the financial loss because some of the books were irreplaceable and were therefore uninsured.

The cost of damage to the building itself was put at millions of euros.

The library was opened in 1691 and housed the world's largest collection of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who had lived in Weimar.



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