Archie Dick Examines Herman de Vleeschauwer’s Nazi Background and the Sinister Origins of His Book Collection
In The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures Archie L Dick draws attention to the academic career of Herman de Vleeschauwer, a Belgian who was condemned to death for his collaboration with Nazis in World War Two, writes Stephen Coan for The Witness.
Dick asks why De Vleeschauwer’s background wasn’t questioned when he arrived in South Africa as a fugitive. He was given a position at the University of Pretoria’s Merensky Library and later was appointed head of three different departments at the University of South Africa.
De Vleeschauwer brought his book collection of 8000 titles with him, which are now at the De Vleeschauwer Collection at the University of Johannesburg. Dick writes that “A striking feature of De Vleeschauwer’s library collection is the mysterious removal by cutting or erasure of ownership markings and names in many of the books” and points out that De Vleeschauwer had a record of book theft and that in 1940 he was appointed to a committee that confiscated “archives, libraries and works of art from the ideological enemies of Nazism”.
“Why Belgian-born Herman de Vleeschauwer, who was condemned to death for Nazi collaboration in the Second World War, could rise to such a prominent position at South Africa’s oldest and largest university remains a mystery,” writes Archie L. Dick in The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures.
Dick, professor in the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria, confesses himself equally baffled as to why the academic and library profession accepted him, and did nothing to “investigate his sinister background”.