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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK
Rare books in German library fire
Burning library, Weimar
Firemen battle the blaze in the Duchess Anna Amalia library
Thousands of irreplaceable books are believed to have been damaged or destroyed in a fire at a library in the town of Weimar, Germany, officials say.

The blaze in the 16th Century palace housing the Duchess Anna Amalia library raged for two hours on Thursday night.

Workers forming a human chain managed to retrieve some 6,000 valuable works - including a 1534 Bible owned by Reformation-era monk Martin Luther.

Officials are worried about water and smoke damage to many remaining books.

The area worst affected by the blaze housed some 12,000 to 13,000 volumes, the library's director, Michael Knoche said.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

'Not insured'

Germany's culture minister visited the site of the fire on Friday morning and said, "A piece of the world's cultural heritage has been lost forever."

The library was established in 1691 and holds several rare works spanning the 16th to the 18th centuries - a period when Weimar was home to German literary legends Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller.

Its total collection - scattered around several sites in Weimar - numbers some one million volumes, the majority of which were in the building affected by the fire.

Many of the books were impossible to replace and therefore had not been insured, Mr Knoche said.

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