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    Macron to be blamed for giving Pope book looted from Poland during WWII

    President Emmanuel Macron met with Pope Francis at the Vatican yesterday. During a private audience, Macron gifted the head of the Church the first French edition of Immanuel Kant’s late 18th-century book Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. A storm has broken out over the internet about whether Emmanuel Macron accidentally or on purpose gifted Pope Francis a Polish book looted by Nazis during World War II.

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    However, when a Vatican correspondent for French newspaper Le Croix Loup Besmond de Senneville posted a photo of the inside front cover, eagled-eyed Internet users noticed a clearly identifiable stamp of the Czytelnia Akademicka, which was a reading union organised by students from the University of Lwów, which was then part of Poland.


    During the war, the library was heavily looted by the Germans and the Soviets, which led to immediate speculation online that Macron had actually gifted the Pope stolen war booty, with some even accusing the French head of state of the crime of ‘fencing’.


    French internet users were quick to point out that the valuable book had been purchased at auction in Paris for EUR 2500 and the auctioneer’s notes suggest that the book had been present in France since 1900.


    When the speculation about the Polish origins of the book had spread across social media, a diplomat, an expert from the Kazimierz Pulaski Foundation and a member of the Polish Institute of International Affairs referred to this situation. 


    “This photo has created quite a stir in Poland – the stamp clearly indicates that the book presented by the French President to Pope Francis used to be the property of the (then) Polish university library in Lviv…Embarrassing, to say the least…,” he wrote. 


    “This book clearly belonged to the library of the “Czytelnia Akademicka,” a student association from Lwów. It may have been looted by the German occupation authorities during WWII – especially as it is a valuable edition of Kant’s work, as well sold, stolen or exchanged earlier,” Łukasz Adamski, the Deputy President of the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, also referred to this issue.


    The head of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, Sławomir Dębski later added: “The case requires verification. The book could have been exchanged before WW2 (as a duplicate), for another book from the collection of some other library. However, the Germans were massively plundering Polish libraries/archives, so this is still the most likely source of origin.”


    Not satisfied with this, proponents of the theft theory pointed out that library books from the Lwów collection that had been officially removed from its collection would have additional markings, leading some to maintain their belief in theft but from an earlier date.


    However, Arnoud Bedat, a veteran French investigative journalist, reported on Twitter that the book was purchased for EUR 2500 at the Hatchuel bookstore in Paris, which specialises in rare books.



    According to the description on the bookseller’s website, the book had been in France for about 120 years before ending up yesterday in the Vatican.


    The Czytelnia Akademicka (English: Reading Union) was a Polish student society active in Lviv from 1867-1939. Between the wars, its members were mainly students of the Jan Kazimierz University of Lwów, which is now the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.

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