In accordance with an August 1942 injunction from the Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture, all valuable library materials in cities in danger of being bombed were to be evacuated.
After finding a suitable location, selecting the appropriate materials and documenting and packing them, the process of relocation began in October 1943. It consisted of:
as well as plaques, medallions, estate materials, 500 boxes containing the inventory of academy publications, and approximately 4,600 other containers. The location chosen for their safekeeping was in an inoperative potash mining shaft in Wansleben near Eisleben.
In 1944, a large section of that shaft was requisitioned by the SS for use as an armament factory. The safeguarded cultural property was then relocated to another area of the shaft.
The US army reached the area in the middle of April 1945 and secured the cultural property. The Leopoldina's subsequent efforts to recover them remained unsuccessful until the occupation power was replaced by another in July 1945.
The Leopoldina president at the time, Emil Abderhalden, had to leave Halle at the behest of the American army. Otto Schlüter, vice-president of the academy, subsequently took charge of the negotiations with the Soviet military administration.
The complete inventory of cultural property was to be returned on the condition of the reciprocal delivery of 15 tons of heating fuel. The reality, however, was that only a partial amount of the stored academy publications, albeit a large one, was returned to Halle.
In 1957, in accordance with a joint declaration from the GDR’s government delegation and the USSR concerning the “reciprocal repatriation of cultural property”, more of the inventory was returned: mainly archival goods and parts of the membership archives, but, unfortunately, none of the approximately 7,000 valuable volumes from the library.