2017     A Belgian library displays books rescued from fires during both world wars


  • On August 25, 1914, the library of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium was destroyed by German forces in a fire that was a deliberate act of World War I. At the time, the library, which was constructed in the 17th century, was estimated to hold around 300,000 volumes, many which were of historical and scholarly importance. The full extent of the loss was never known because the library was in the middle of an audit at the time of the attack.  
  • The targeting of a non-military cultural institution was widely reviled and viewed as contrary to the normal laws of wartime engagement and conduct. It soon became a cause célèbre, illustrating the terrible cultural ravages inflicted by war. Before-and-after postcards were circulated across the globe to illustrate the extent of the destruction.