"Some of Germany's most valuable documentary treasures may have been destroyed, wiped out in the three minutes it took for a six-storey building to become a pile of smouldering brickwork on Wednesday afternoon.
The private papers of the Nobel prize-winning novelist Heinrich B�ll, one of Germany's most powerful postwar writers, have been lost under the rubble. They include the drafts of books, corrected manuscripts, letters and radio plays. The writer was born in Cologne and insisted before his death in 1985 that the papers be moved from Boston to his home town.
Lost, too, were manuscripts of essays and articles written by Karl Marx when he was editor of the Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne in the 19th century.
This is a real disaster. With any luck it will be last as we rush to digitise everything.