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Welcome to lootedart.com
This site contains two fully searchable databases.
The Information Database contains information and documentation from forty nine countries, including laws and policies, reports and publications, archival records and resources, current cases and relevant websites.
The Object Database contains details of over 25,000 objects of all kinds – paintings, drawings, antiquities, Judaica, etc – looted, missing and/or identified from over fifteen countries.
All images on the site are published under fair use conditions for the purpose of criticism and research.
Jacob Kohnstamm, who chaired the committee which evaluated Dutch restitution policy (see Report here) has been appointed as the new chairman of the Dutch Restitutions Committee. The appointment took effect on September 28, 2021 for a period of 3 years, with the possibility of a one-time extension.
The Kohnstamm Report led to a new framework for assessing restitution claims and as chairman Kohnstamm will now implement the new restitution policy. The new secretary of the Committee is Else van Sterkenburg, a lawyer and art historian (further details here).
The new criteria involve a presumption of involuntary loss if the original owner belonged to a persecuted group; if the original owner needed the proceeds to finance escape from Nazi rule that is also covered by the presumption.
The presumption of involuntary loss, and hence the likelihood of restitution, is however mitigated by the question of the good faith of the current possessor at the time of purchase and by the standards of the time when that possessor is a non-state museum (state museums will not be able to invoke the good faith defense). A museum can choose to waive that defense, but if it doesn't, the Committee will assess whether the museum acted in good faith.
Good faith will be presumed if 'the investigation carried out by the current possessor into the item’s provenance prior to its acquisition complied with the standards of the time; and, in the light of that investigation and the general circumstances, the current possessor did not know and could not reasonably have known at the time of its acquisition that the item had been expropriated involuntarily from a previous owner'.
If the current possessor is deemed not to have acted in good faith, the Committee will recommend restitution. But if considered to have acted in good faith, the Committee will not necessarily restitute but provide what it considers a 'fair and just' solution, This might be 'restitution subject to appropriate conditions, including financial ones; restitution on the condition that the item remain on public view permanently, temporarily or for certain periods of time; non-restitution, but with the current possessor required to pay the applicant appropriate financial compensation; or, non-restitution, but with the current possessor required to exhibit the item in public with details of its origin and the name of the original owner'.
The new Decree setting out the assessment framework is here in English. The Dutch text is here.
The WPI has announced the release of 10,000+ newly digitized, pre-1945 sales catalogues bringing the total number of sales catalogues fully accessible in their database to 21,916. These sales catalogues, many of which are annotated, are critical assets for catalogue raisonné and provenance research, as well as for research in the history of collecting and the art market.
At the moment, the Sales Catalogues Database can be searched by keyword, location, and date of a sale. However, the WPI is currently working on a large cataloguing project using OCLC’s cataloguing tool to create bibliographic records for each sales catalogue so that their collection can also be accessed through WorldCat.
For more information, visit: wpi.art
The Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris and the German Centre for Art History (Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte – DFK PARIS) are for the third time jointly awarding a scholarship for the calendar year 2022. Intended for art history researchers wishing to conduct original research on the history of the art market in France between 1939 and 1945, the fellows will carry out their research in Paris within the framework of these two institutions, spending six months at each. Application deadline: 18 October 2021. For full details and how to apply, click here.
A still from Europa
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe, jointly with the Bundesarchiv and the British Film Institute, has announced the restitution of Europa, a1931 anti-fascist masterpiece by filmmakers Stefan and Franciszka Themerson based on the 1925 Anatol Stern poem, the first film restitution in some decades.
The Themersons deposited Europa and four other films in the Vitfer Paris film laboratory in 1940 before joining the Free Polish Army and eventually arriving in England during the war. After the war they learned all five films had been seized by the Nazis and were believed destroyed. Both Franciszka and Stefan died in 1988, still believing that Europa had not survived. It was only in 2019 that their niece and heir Jasia Reichardt learned from Poland’s Pilecki Institute that a copy of Europa might be in the Bundesarchiv and the Themerson Estate contacted the Commission for Looted Art in Europe for help in identifying the film and negotiating its restitution.
The Commission’s research revealed that, after seizure in Paris, the original nitrate film of Europa had entered the Reich Film Archive (Reichsfilmarchiv) in Berlin and by 1959 was in the holdings of the East German State Film Archive (Staatliches Filmarchiv). After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the Film Archive became part of the Bundesarchiv where the film had remained ever since. The Commission found there were two copies of the film in the Bundesarchiv, the 35 mm nitrate copy left at Vitfer Laboratories in 1940, and a preservation copy made by the Bundesarchiv. Both have now been returned to Ms Reichardt who has donated them to the British Film Institute. Europa will have its world premiere on the opening night of the London Film Festival on 6 October. The other four Themerson films seized in Paris remain missing.
Anne Webber, Co-Chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, said: “We are delighted to have achieved the restitution of this remarkable work of art, lost for so long and believed to have been destroyed by the Nazis, but now available for audiences across the world to appreciate. We are grateful to the Bundesarchiv for all their cooperation and hope this will lead to many other films seized by the Nazis being found and returned” Michael Hollmann, President of the Bundesarchiv, said: “The Bundesarchiv is committed to securing and protecting its collection of more than 160,000 films comprising over 1 million film reels as well as possible. But in a few cases, we have learned that a film does not belong in our collection. We very much welcome the successful restitution of Europa and we hope that it will reach a very wide and interested audience.”
To read the Press Release, click here.
Dr Nadine Bauer has announced that her doctoral thesis in German on the German art dealer Maria Almas Dietrich is available online through the Technische Universität Berlin (Technical University Berlin) repository DepositOnce at https://depositonce.tu-berlin.de/handle/11303/12121. Her thesis advisor was Bénédicte Savoy and referees Savoy and Gesa Jeuthe.
Maria Dietrich was born in 1892 into a family of butchers in Munich. According to her own account, she had worked as an art and antiques dealer in Munich since 1918. The first part of the thesis deals with various aspects of the development and establishment of her business: What is the date of her first proven activity in the Munich art trade? What is the date when advertisements start to appear? Other women in the Munich art trade are also mentioned and the question of what it meant to be self-employed as a woman around 1920 is pursued. The focus of the main part is on the activities of the Almas Gallery during the Nazi era: It traces how Dietrich developed into the main buyer for Adolf Hitler and the Sonderauftrag (Special Commission) Linz within a few years, the main aim of which was to build up an encyclopedic museum collection. Acquisitions by the Galerie Almas for Hitler and his environment attracted attention within Germany primarily in Berlin and Munich, and from 1938 in Austria and between 1940 and 1944 in France and the Netherlands. In the last part of the thesis, disputes with the Allied military government from 1945 as well as claims to art objects to and by Maria Dietrich are discussed. The description of the re-establishment of her as an an art dealer from the early 1950s concludes the thesis and indicates continuities in the business with art in general and Munich in particular.
The affidavit filed by the US Department of Homeland Security stated that: 'This case involves the cultural property of pre-Holocaust Jewish communities in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine, and of the Holocaust survivors from those communities, who returned to their homes to find this cultural property and other items taken.' It continued: 'Pursuant to various international treaties and conventions, the subject Manuscripts and Scrolls were illegally taken from their rightful owners, the Holocaust survivors of the Jewish communities from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine.' Citing the various international treaties, laws and agreements preventing the removal of such materials from the countries of origin, the affidavit stated that in February 2021 US law enforcement learned that 21 manuscripts and scrolls from these communities, believed lost forever, had been offered for sale that month by Kestenbaum and Company and that one was with a buyer in Monsey, New York, one was still with Kestenbaum, 17 were with the consigner in Park Avenue, New York, two had been sold to the National Library of Israel and one to a private individual in Israel [the Yeshiva Ahavat Shalom in Jerusalem]'.
The US Department of Justice acted because: 'While the consigner’s intention would allow the consigner to obtain renumeration for the Manuscripts and Scrolls, it would operate to prevent the government from returning the works to the survivors and successors of the Jewish communities that created them.'
The affidavit from the federal agent who requested the seizured describes all the individual items in detail. To read the affidavit and full details of the case, see here.
The press release from the US Department of Justice is here.
The Hermann Göring Collection database is back online again after a long absence. It can be found at https://www.dhm.de/datenbank/goering/dhm_goering.php and is on the site of the German Historical Museum.
The same site also hosts the databases for Hitler's Linz Collection and the Munich Central Collecting Point. All three databases are now functioning and accessible to researchers again.
22 July 2021: The German Advisory Commission has unanimously decided not to recommend the restitution of the painting 'Portrait of Alfred Kerr' by Lovis Corinth to the heirs of Robert Graetz. Graetz, a businessman in Berlin with a collection of some 245 works of art, was deported to the Trawniki concentration camp near Lublin on 14 April 1942. His last message to his daughter was dated 16 June 1942 and came from the Warsaw Ghetto. His wife and children survived but were also persecuted. The Advisory Commission considered that most of the family's art collection was lost due to persecution, but it was not clear that the Corinth was also seized from Robert Graetz or that he was the primary victim. In addition, a 1957 settlement by the heirs with its then owner, which led to the painting being sold to the Schiller Theatre, stood in the way of restitution. However, in view of the fact that all those involved, including Alfred Kerr, the subject of the painting, were oppressed, robbed, deported, forced to flee or murdered, the Commission recommended that the current owner, the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, acknowledge this provenance appropriately in the future.
The Commission's press release can be read here and its full decision here.
The Bulletin of the Rijksmuseum, is currently being digitised. The Bulletin, published quarterly, presents scholarly articles that contribute to research into and understanding of the Rijksmuseum collection. The Bulletins from 2012-2021 are already online and the next series, from the 1950s-2011 will be available in the last week of October. To see the Bulletins now online visit https://bulletin.rijksmuseum.nl/issue/archive
The German Federal Art Administration (Kunstverwaltung des Bundes) (KVdB) has announced that it restituted a painting by the Austrian painter Rudolf von Alt in May 2021. The oil painting 'Naples' belonged to Malvine Stern (née Tafler) (1870-1945), of Vienna who acquired it in ca 1901. She fled back to her native Hungary in August 1938 after the Anschluß, where she was later murdered. Her export application for the painting was refused by Austria as being a nationally valuable cultural asset and it was acquired for Hitler's Linz Collection.
The painting was handed over to Bavaria in 1948 by the Allies and has been in the federal government's ownership since 1949. To see the full details of the painting and its provenance in the KVdB database, click here. A press release issued on 24 June by the KVdB about the restitution is available here.
Included is an interview with Dutch Culture Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven on the measures she is taking to improve Dutch restitution policy and the additional funding of €6m over the next four years for research into the NK collection and its new portal and a Help Desk in the Cultural Heritage Agency. She notes her decision to enable all unclaimed looted art in the National Art Collection to be claimed by the Jewish community.
Also in the Newsletter are details of a looted landscape painting by Friedrich Treuer. The owners, who lived at Liechtensteinstraße 45 in Vienna, are being sought by the Austrian authorities. There is news of three looted artworks and a book returned to French national collections and the Ministry of the Armed Forces. France reports on 12 works returned to the heirs of Armand Dorville, and the UK on different ways in which claims by the heirs of Curt Glaser have been addressed by the different restitution committees and authorities in Europe.
To read the Newsletter, click here.
Founded in 1880, the Julius Böhler gallery in Munich was one of the largest art dealers in the German-speaking world in the first half of the 20th century, with an international reputation. For many years, the history of the gallery has been one of the most urgent desiderata of provenance research. In 2015, the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte Munich was able to acquire the gallery's artwork index system, the photo folders, and the customer index. So far 1,500 records on Munich transactions 1903-1917 have been digitised and made available and more will be regularly added. No photo folders have yet been digitised. The site includes a history of the dealership here, details of the records here, and literature references here.
The database search page is at http://boehler.zikg.eu/suche
To clarify the circumstances of loss leading to the restitution by the Bavarian State Paintings Collections of the Joseph Wopfner painting Fishing Boats near Frauenchiemsee to the community of heirs of Alfred Isay (1883-1948), provenance researcher Dr Johannes Gramlich has written a detailed paper, 'Time is pressing and there are shady sides everywhere': The Abraham Adelsberger Collection and the painting Fischerboote bei Frauenchiemsee by Josef Wopfner. Explanation of the Research Results and the Fundamentals of Restitution'. The paper addresses what Gramlich describes as 'the questions that... are central to provenance research on Nazi art theft and should clarify whether the loss was persecution-related: When, how, and why did Isay relinquish the work between March 1935 and March 1942? These questions exemplify the challenges that provenance research faces beyond this individual case. For it is principally not only concerned with reconstructing the mere succession of owners of an object. In the case of changes of ownership during the National Socialist era, it must also take into account the character of the assets transfers'. When these are not direct expropriations, 'provenance research must also shed light on the context and motives on which a transaction was based. Consequently, it focuses not only on the history of the object but also on the biographies of the former owners. On the micro-level, it identifies mechanisms and practices of discrimination, exclusion and persecution. Above all, in this way, it makes visible the stories and fates of individuals and families who were expelled, interned, and murdered during the Nazi era.' To read the paper, click here.
This year the Network is chaired by the Netherlands and Newsletter editor is Els Swaab, acting chair of the Dutch Restitutions Committee. In her editorial, she writes that this year is the 20th anniversary of the Committee, and that: "Prompted in part by the work and report - ‘Striving for Justice’ - of the Kohnstamm Committee, we have looked back very explicitly at the last twenty years, we have reflected on our recommendations and the considerations they were based on, and on our own procedure. At the same time, we have contemplated how to implement the recommendations of the Kohnstamm Committee for the future and we have amended our procedure in line with a new Decree Establishing the Restitutions Committee. The Restitutions Committee remains just as committed to contributing to restoration of the rights of the individual victim." She also notes that the Restitutions Committee is creating a documentary film on its work "to increase awareness of the history of art looting in WW2 and to improve the Committee's outreach".
Contents of the Newsletter include: 'Restitutions Committee: A New Assessment Framework in the Netherlands’ by Jan van Kreveld, a Restitutions Committee member, explaining the new Dutch assessment framework; reports on French provenance research in museums and archives; details of a January 2019 Austrian decision to restitute four graphic works to the heirs of Moriz Gruenebaum; details of a 25 November 2020 Dutch decision to restitute a painting to the heirs of Alfred and Fanny Mautner; and a case study of the spoliation of the Georges Mandel, French Minister of the Interior until the installation of the Vichy government which later murdered him, many of whose artworks remain missing, and the restitution of three of his books, two from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (State Library of Berlin), and one from the SLUB Dresden (Dresden University Library).
To read the Newsletter, click here.
The Wildenstein Plattner Institute Digital Archives – a repository of over 50,000 digital resources documenting the work of French dealers, collectors, and artists from the 18th to the 20th centuries - the source materials for which were originally assembled by the Wildenstein Institute throughout the 20th century for provenance and catalogue raisonné research - has added three new online resources:
Eugène and Jules Féral Inventories, 1841-1940
The Eugène and Jules Féral Inventories provide an overview of the professional activities of the French art experts Eugène and Jules Féral. The collection consists of 226 appraisal and inventory dossiers on important Parisian collections including those of Louis Lacaze, Théophile Thoré and Marie Frédéric de Reiset.
Galerie Étienne Bignou Photo Archive, c. 1909-1950
The Galerie Étienne Bignou Photo Archive consists of 1,777 black and white, photographic reproductions of works by artists the French art dealer sold or exhibited at his Paris, London and New York galleries. The collection includes reproductions of works by French artists from the 19th and 20th centuries including Honoré Daumier, Jean Lurçat, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and George Seurat.
M. Knoedler & Co. Scrapbooks, 1892-1932
The M. Knoedler & Co. Scrapbooks consist of nine albums of press clippings documenting art exhibitions, sales, and heists of European and American art in Paris, New York and London. The Knoedler gallery gave the scrapbooks to George Isarlo who gifted them to the Fondation Wildenstein in the 1970s.
The Musée du Louvre has launched its online collection database collections.louvre.fr that for the first time brings together all the museum’s artworks in one place whether works are on display in the museum, on long-term loan in other French institutions, or in storage. The database already contains more than 482,000 entries, including works from the Louvre and the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix, sculptures from the Tuileries and Carrousel gardens and ‘MNR’ works (Musées Nationaux Récupération, or National Museums Recovery) recovered after WWII and entrusted to the Louvre until they can be returned to their legitimate owners. The site offers several ways to delve into the collections: simple or advanced searches, entries by curatorial department, and themed albums - for example, the MNR album. An interactive map helps visitors prepare or extend their visit and allows them to explore the museum room by room. Updated regularly by museum experts, the database will continue to grow and reflect advances in research.
The Musée du Louvre has also launched a new and improved website, louvre.fr, designed to be more user-friendly, attractive and immersive.
The claim for the Franz Marc painting had been referred to the German panel when Dusseldorf rejected the claim. Grawi, a banker, broker and entrepreneur, was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1938 and emigrated via Brussels to Chile in April 1939 where he, his wife and two sons would be reunited in December 1939. He was allowed to take 10 marks with him. In a letter from Brussels, Grawi wrote that the Franz Marc painting was in Paris awaiting shipment to New York where it was to be sold. "The results of the sale will provide the basis of our emigration", he wrote. The painting was sold in 1940 and donated to the Dusseldorf Municipal Museum in 1962. By a majority decision of 6 to 3 the Commission decided that the painting "should be restituted, even though the sale took place outside the National Socialist sphere of influence. The sale in 1940 in New York was the direct consequence of imprisonment in a concentration camp and subsequent emigration, and was so closely connected with National Socialist persecution that the location of the event becomes secondary in comparison."
To read the decision in full, click here for the German text, and here for the English text.
The Frick Art Reference Library has completed its three-year project to digitize the library’s historic Photoarchive collection. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this initiative has made records and images for more than 175,000 works of art available in the Frick Digital Collections, NYARC Discovery, and FRESCO (the library’s online catalog), joining the 184,000 records which have already been made available digitally. This project offers unprecedented access to Photoarchive materials, allowing researchers across the globe to view and download the library’s unique holdings.
Now available to researchers are all of the “Classified” or fully cataloged materials. These photographs are mounted on 9 x 12 inch gray cardboard and are assigned a unique call number based on subject matter. These mounts contain detailed provenance and attribution histories for each work of art they document. In addition to high resolution images for each work of art, all accompanying documentation has been digitized, giving researchers full access that was previously only available onsite at the library.
On 12 March 2021 the Dutch Culture Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven published a letter to the Dutch Parliament in response to the Kohnstamm Report 'Striving for Justice' published in December 2020 to evaluate Dutch restitution policy. She prefaces the letter by saying: "It is essential that these claims are handled carefully and fairly, because restitution is more than just the return of an item of cultural value. It is the recognition of the injustice done to the original owners and a contribution to the redress of this injustice."
In her letter the Minister sets out what will be the new Dutch restitution policy. She accepts the Kohnstamm recommendations on removing the controversial balance of interests test, and reverts to an assessment framework according to which there is a presumption of involuntary loss. She rejects for the State the Kohnstamm recommendation that the good faith of the acquiring institution be taken into account and says it is It is up to the local authorities to decide whether they will invoke acquisition in good faith. However, "From conversations I have had with the IPO, the VNG and several municipalities with extensive collections, I gather that local governments also feel strongly about the moral duty to restore looted art."
She agrees with Kohnstamm that the approach of the Restituitons Committee must change: "It is very important to me that the restitution policy is also experienced as contributing to the restoration of rights and that applicants feel they are being heard".
She concludes that while "it has become more complicated to determine whether a loss of possession was involuntary and to whom restitution should be made. However, the goal of restoring all cultural goods lost involuntarily remains as important as ever. I am in agreement with the international consensus that rightful claimants should still be able to request restitution."
To read the letter in Dutch, click here. To read our English translation, click here.
The database of Hitler's Linz Collection which has been offline for a year is now back online. On the site of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, it can be accessed directly at https://www.dhm.de/datenbank/linzdb/
The Wiener Library has announced that access to the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive (VHA) will be available in the Wolfson Reading Room to all members, users, and visitors once the Library reopens after lockdown. The Visual History Archive is a vital resource for anyone who is interested in or conducting research on genocide: it's a unique primary source that allows users to search through and view more than 54,000 video testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, and other crimes against humanity, offering exclusive insight and knowledge rarely available in traditional content. For further details visit https://wienerholocaustlibrary.org
In the first blog, lawyer Gert-Jan van den Bergh comments in the Dutch national newspaper NRC on the letter from the Amsterdam Mayor to the Municipality of Amsterdam on the restitution of looted art. To read the blog, click here.
In recent years, some 1,100 annotated catalogues of the Hugo Helbing auction house have come to light. One set is in the Zentralinstitut in Munich, another one is in the Kunsthaus Zurich, while additional, smaller sets are in private hands.
These catalogues were annotated by Helbing and his staff and include information on consignors, written bids, reserves, hammer prices, buyers, lists of objects offered or traded "outside the catalogue" etc. and are an important source for provenance research. 400 catalogues have now been fully digitised and the rest are to follow. They are available at the Heidelberg University German Sales database, which provides searchable scans of thousands of auction catalogues from German-speaking countries, 1900-1945, and more will be added as they are digitised. .
Operating from his headquarters in Munich, Helbing also ran branch offices in Frankfurt and Berlin and occasionally organized auctions abroad. With more than 800 auctions on record, many of them offering highly prestigious ensembles and collections, Helbing was by far the most important art auctioneer in the German speaking countries between c. 1900 and the mid-1930s. He was murdered during the “November Pogroms“ in 1938 and the remainder of his firm was subsequently „aryanized“.
For a link to the database, click here. For more information about Hugo Helbing click here.
For an online exhibition on Hugo Helbing and his firm, curated by Meike Hopp and Melida Steinke, see https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/VwKyXPJHKm3FJA?hl=de
This is an online resource documenting the history and development of a collection of nearly 3,500 works of art primarily from the Italian Renaissance which are divided between 100 US institutions by 1961. The collection was amassed by American businessman Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955) from the late 1920s, and later his brother Rush; the Kress foundation has funded the project. Data and digitized archival materials illustrate the history, acquisition, condition, care, and distribution of the works of art over many decades. Visit the resource here.
Carolyn Hollander brought two items for appraisal at GBH's Antiques Roadshow: an engraved gold watch and a leather bound book. The book is over two hundred pages thick, complete with photographs, a family tree, and personal stories — all compiled by her grandfather, a supreme court judge in 1930s Germany. Carolyn never met her grandfather, who was killed during the Holocaust. Carolyn's visit to Roadshow begins a journey to recover her family's artifacts lost during the Holocaust. Listen to her podcast here.
In their letter, the Mayor and Alderman write in response to the report of the Kohnstamm Report 'Striving for Justice' on Dutch restitution policy, that:
'The suffering inflicted on Jewish citizens in particular during the Second World War is unprecedented and irreversible. The Jewish citizens were deprived of their possessions, rights, dignity and in many cases their lives. To the extent that something can still be restored of the great injustice that was done to them, we as a society have a moral obligation to act accordingly. This certainly applies to the many works of art that were owned by Jewish citizens and were looted by the Nazis or otherwise lost to their owners. Returning these works of art can mean a great deal to the victims and is of great importance in recognising the injustice done to them.
As a city, we have a role and responsibility in this. That is why the City of Amsterdam advocates a fair restitution policy. A policy that, on the basis of a reasonable and appropriate assessment framework, enables as many art works as possible to be returned to their rightful (heirs of) owners. That is the least we can do for the victims of the Nazi regime.
The Committee endorses the recommendations of the Kohnstamm Committee and agrees with the Committee that the weighing of interests as included in the current assessment framework of the Restitutions Committee does not serve the purpose of restoration of rights that should be pursued. The Board also believes that the new assessment framework proposed by the Kohnstamm Committee should apply not only to new restitution cases, but also to current and finalised cases, and will of course bear the consequences.
This means that the Board advocates that the Restitutions Committee reassess the application for restitution of the work 'Bild mit Häusern' by Wassily Kandinsky on the basis of an amended assessment framework. For a reassessment of a restitution application on which binding advice has already been given, the applicants' cooperation and consent is required. The Board will contact the applicants.
As the city of Amsterdam, we will in the future - together with the residents and museums involved and also in an international context - continue to make active efforts to ensure that, where possible, works of art that were involuntarily removed to the possession of the museum during the Second World War due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime are returned to the heirs of the former owners.'
The German Advisory Commission unanimously recommended the restitution of the watercolour Crouching Female Nude by Egon Schiele owned by Dr Heinrich Rieger of Vienna. A dentist and great collector of over 800 contemporary artworks, of which Schiele’s works formed a major part, Rieger was murdered in Theresienstadt. The Commission had ordered the City of Cologne, which was opposed to restitution, to produce evidence by 31 December 2020 proving that the work of art had ‘an atypical fate’ and had been voluntarily sold or gifted by Dr Rieger before the Anschluss of March 1938. Cologne was unable to do so. The Commission made its decision. To read its recommendation, in German only, click here.
The PhD researcher will perform research and write a thesis on the theme of reclaiming artwork looted by Nazis and their collaborators. The post is in the Maastrcht Law Faculty and research wiill be carried ouut with the support of experts from the Maastricht Law Faculty and the Maastricht Centre for Arts and Culture, Conservation and Heritage. Start of employment: between 1 March 2021 and 1 June 2021. For full details and how to apply, click here.
The Commission found that the painting was owned by Dr Fischer until January 1934. After suffering intense persecution, he left Germany in 1935 and in 1936 emigrated to the USA. Erich Heckel had possession of the painting in January 1944 and donated it to the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe in 1967, where it has been ever since. The Commission was unable to establish how Heckel came into possession of the painting or obtained ownership of it. But in their view a Nazi persecution-related seizure must be assumed and therefore unanimously recommended restitution to the heirs who announced they will donate the painting to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, USA, where it will rejoin the family collection. Many other paintings owned by Dr Fischer remain missing. To read the Recommendation, only available in German, click here.
Since December 2020, fifteen new entries have been added to the Lexicon of Provenance Research:
Lotte Adametz, Bernhard Altmann, Sepp Finger, Otto Fürth, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Marcel Kammerer, Julius Kien, Robert Mayer, Georg Popper, Central-Antiquariat Moritz Stern, Friedrich Trauth, Hermann Trenkwald, Leo Weiser Versandbuchhandlung, Flora Wilhelm and Paul Zsolnay The website, which is to be relaunched in 2021, will also contain English versions of these entries. The Lexicon can be found at https://www.lexikon-provenienzforschung.org/. For a list of earlier entries and informatio about the Lexicon, see here.
The Essential Website Links provided by lootedart.com have been revised and updated. They include sections on national and international websites of looted works of art or of art with gaps in its provenance, art institutions and libraries with ongoing provenance research, claimant resources, and information about the five European restituion committees and their 2019 publication, Guide to the Work of the Committees: Five ways of resolving claims which sets out details of each panel and the way they address claims. To visit, click here.
The French Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation (CIVS) has published its report on its activities in 2019 in the area of cultural property and in the international dimension in particular. Founded on 10 September 1999 by government decree, the report also takes stock of its achievements in the last twenty years. The second part of the Report is devoted to the proceedings of the Symposium held on November 15, 2019 in Paris to mark the 20th anniversary.To read the report, click here.
The Austrian editors report that in 2021 contacts between the various committees were stepped up and the national committees reported to one another on their activities, 'enabling us all to find out what was happening in other countries'. The idea of looking at the activities of the other signatories to the Washington Principles was also taken up and this exchange of experiences will be further developed in the future.
The editors write: 'The year also ended spectacularly for the Network with the report “Striving for Justice” on the work of the Dutch Restitutiecommissie [issued by the Kohnstamm Committee] and the resignation of its chairperson Alfred Hammerstein.'
The Newsletter includes an interview with acting Chair of the Dutch Restitutions Comittee Els Swaab about the Kohnstamm Committee's report. She welcomes 'the constructive recommendations in the report'. Alfred Hammerstein by contrast writes that the criticism of the Restitution Committee's recommendations which led to the Report was 'unjust'. He continues to assert that 'a weighing up of the interests is consistent with' the Washington Principles, although the Kohnstamm Report firmly recommends the 'balance of interest' test be removed as inconsistent with a fair and just solution. Hammerstein also asserts that 'it is an open question whether grandchildren and great-grandchildren also have a moral claim' and encourages the other Committees to consider these issues.
The Newsletter's editors write of Hammerstein: 'In his words of farewell in this Newsletter you can read a number of arguments, which the various committees need to examine on the basis of their own guidelines, as compiled in 2019 by our French colleagues in their “Guide to the Work of the Restitution Committees”.
To read the Newsletter, click here.
In the lawsuit brought by the Lewenstein heirs against the Stedelijk Museum, the Stedelijk Foundation and the Municipality of Amsterdam to overturn the negative decision of the Dutch Restitutions Committee in 2018, the Court ruled that 'the conclusions of the Restitution Committee regarding the possible restitution of Wassily Kandinsky's painting Bild mit Häusern remain valid'.
To read the judgement in English or Dutch, click here.
A new documentary in German from 3sat.de on Jewish art collections, often brought together over generations, which were systematically expropriated after the Nazis came to power in Germany. The film focuses on particular collectors, shows how the art market benefited from the plundering, and explores the difficulties in finding the stolen paintings today.
To see the documentary, follow this link: https://www.3sat.de/kultur/kulturdoku/geraubte-kunst-100.html
The Committee, chaired by Jacob Kohnstamm, prefaced its report with a quote from Deuteronomy chapter 16: 'Pursue justice and justice alone'. The report recommends a return to a clear and principled commitment to restitution, assessing cases on the basis of a presumption of involuntary loss from 30 January 1933, removes the balance of interests test and the reliance on assertions of good faith which enabled museums to retain looted works of art, addresses the issues of transparency, accountability and conflict of interest which have beset the claims procedure, acknowledges the failures in communication with claimants and proposes remedies, and calls for proactive research and restitution of looted artworks and the establishment of an independent Help Desk to assist claimants. To read the report, click here.
The first of a new two-part publication funded by the Claims Conference and including digitized wartime ERR Belgian library seizure lists documenting the contents of looted collections, the names of all the victims, and data on the 150 ERR seizure operations between August 1940 and February 1943. During its operations, the ERR deliberately and methodically identified private libraries of individuals and institutions that contained important cultural and historical knowledge and seized an estimated 250,000 – 300,000 volumes of books. To view the publication, click here.
Led by Leibl Rosenberg, the Nuremberg City Library and the Nuremberg Jewish Community have so far returned more than 800 books to heirs in 11 countries around the world pro bono. Several thousand books remain to be returned, and the names of 2,198 previous owners have been identified. Mr Rosenberg writes: 'Many people are still waiting for these fragments of memory. Let's please work together on this.' The latest Search List is on the homepage of the city library, together with details on how to seek restitution and to contact Mr Rosenberg. The list can be searched by name of the owner here and by location of the owner here. The list is available as a Word document here.
In 2015, the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZIKG) in Munich acquired the extensive archive of the notorious Munich gallery and dealer Julius Böhler (est. 1880) which provides information on a large number of transactions between 1903 and 1994 and is particularly of interest for the Nazi era during which Böhler was a central figure in the trade in Nazi looted art. A new research project is exploring the archive and in two new blog posts Dr. Birgit Jooss write about Hitler as a client who, in 1934, bought two marble busts, one of a young woman and the second of Richard Wagner. To read the posts, click here.
The lecture given on 30 November 2020 by Margaux Dumas of the Université du Paris/Technische Universität Berlin, and Xenia Schiemann, of the Technische Universität Berlin, told the story of an important mahogany commode dated 1787, looted by the Nazis, acquired in 1941 in France by the Reichsbank, transferred to the Märkisches Museum in East Berlin in 1952 by the GDR Ministry of Finance and sold on the other side of the Iron Curtain in 1986. To hear the lecture, click here.
At the recent ‘Connect and Collect’ conference of 23-24 November 2020, Laurel Zuckerman gave a paper about the difficulties of sustaining and connecting online information about persecuted Jewish art collectors, and how this information becomes easily lost and erased. These issues are often unaddressed because they are difficult to track and fix but she proposes how this could be remedied. To see her deliver her paper, click here. Her paper starts at 20.50.
The Arolsen Archives have added around a million new documents to their online archive. These latest additions include pictures of prisoners and transport lists from Auschwitz concentration camp as well as thousands of letters written by Soviet forced laborers to their families. A comprehensive collection of documents from the British and French occupation zones can now also be searched for the names of victims of Nazi persecution. See https://arolsen-archives.org/en/news/update-online-archive/
Christine Koenigs has written a personal recollection of Irina Antonova, the longstanding director of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and guardian of the Koenigs drawings whom she first met in 1995 in New York and who died this week from Covid 19 at the age of 98. To read it, please click here
As part of a pilot project, some 42,000 files of the NS-Vermögensverwertungsstelle Berlin-Brandenburg (National Socialist Asset Recovery Office Berlin-Brandenburg) are to be made digitally accessible and analysed with the aim of providing information on the seizure and whereabouts of cultural property confiscated in the course of Nazi persecution. Of particular importance for provenance research, the files contain information on those who profited from the Nazi art theft and their relationships to museums and other cultural institutions. This materail will help clarify the provenance of supected Nazi-looted artworks in German public institutions. The files also often contain the last information on those persecuted, deported and murdered which remains of immense significance today for relatives and heirs. For full details of the files and the project, click here.
The Jewish Digital Cultural Recovery Project (JDCRP) has launched its pilot project focusing on the 333 artworks that comprised the Adolphe Schloss collection in France pre-war. The project will create 'an event-based model database that will tell the story of these objects while exploring how art dealers, art galleries, auction houses, collectors, looting agencies, determined the fate—licit and/or illicit—of the Schloss paintings, one-third of which are still unaccounted for and circulating in the international art market'.
'Digitizing thousands of documents and photographs from archives in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States from which critical information is being extracted, processed, and analyzed for inclusion into the model database, we are creating an information system that will be searchable and provide a visual understanding of displaced art objects through time and space as well as the forces and influences that give shape to their story.'
The project is co-funded by the EU and the Claims Conference and led by Avishag Ben-Yosef, Project Manager, and Marc Masurovsky, Academic Director. For more information, visit http://jdcrp.org/.
On 19 December 2019, Dutch Culture Minister Ingrid Engelshoven requested the Council of State establish a committee to evaluate the functioning of the Restitutions Committee between 2015 and 2020. On 11 March 2020, the Netherlands Advisory Committee on the Evaluation of Restitution Policy for Art Looted n the Second World War was established, chaired by Jacob Kohnstamm with six committee members - Lennart Booij, Hagar Heijmans, Nina Polak, Rob Polak, Emile Schrijver and Henny Troostwijk - and supported by the secretariat of Pieter Bots and Nadine Youhat. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kohnstamm Committee held hearings on zoom to hear the views of experts and interested parties in the field. The Committee is due to present its report on 7 December 2020.
Christine Koenigs, claimant for the Koenigs Collection, met with the Committee on 27 May and writes that she 'was left with the feeling of not having been able to fully explain the issues involved, striving for completeness', She has now written an essay which focuses first on the Koenigs case and then on the moral implications of Dutch Restitution Policy in general. This second part refers back also to a May 2020 document by Christine Koenigs, 'Ethics in Policy', on the subject of the factual procedural changes within Dutch Restitution policy.
Since March 2020, research has been carried out to locate the Judaica collection of Max Raphael Hahn (1880-1942), a businessman and leading member of the Jewish community of Göttingen, who was murdered in Riga in 1942. The collection numbered some 167 mainly silver objects. The project is jointly run by the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Museum of Arts and Crafts) Hamburg and a grandson of Max Hahn in Vancouver, Canada, and is funded by the German Lost Art Foundation.
On 21 February 1939, the Dritte Anordnung auf Grund der Verordnung über die Anmeldung des Vermögens von Juden (Third Directive based on the Ordinance on the Registration of Jewish Property) was issued according to which all Jews in Germany had to hand over precious metals, gems and pearls at one of the 66 public pawnbrokers across Germany. Max Hahn handed over his collection in Göttingen and Hamburg in 1939, and it was transferred in 1940 to the Städtische Pfandleihanstalt (Municipal Pawnbroker's Office) Department III - Central Office, Berlin.
The missing objects have now been listed on lostart.de, divided into three slightly puzzling categories: 'Craft and other folk arts' 154 objects; Numismatics 8 objects; and 'Ritual objects and equipment' 4 objects (totalling 166 objects). The 'craft and other folk arts' category includes many ritual objects including rimonim (Torah finals), Torah shields, several yads, a haroset bowl, kiddush cups, a pidyon haben bowl, besamim (spice) boxes, havdalah sets, hanukkiot, etrog containers, a shaddai, tefillin cases, mezuzah cases, seder bowls, shabbat lamps, and other items, many with photographs. The 'Ritual objects and equipment' consist of a 19th century omer book, a Prague megillah, an Amsterdam bridal prayer book and an 1836 Livorno bridal prayer book.
The project began following the Museum identifying the 1757 kiddush cup (shown below) in its collection, depicting Jacob and his fight with the angel, as belonging to Max Hahn and restituting it in 2018. It had been transferred to the Museum by the Finanzbehörde (Tax Authority) Hambug in 1960. For full details see here
In 2015, the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZIKG) in Munich acquired the extensive archive of the Munich Art Gallery Julius Böhler (est. 1880) which documents a large number of transactions between 1903 and 1994. With branch offices in Berlin, Lucerne and New York, Böhler had an international reach.
Funded jointly by the Ernst von Siemens Kunstfonds and the Deutsches Lost Art Foundation, a ZIKG project is now researching the gallery’s practices and aims to improve future access to the archive which are very relevant for the study of the art market and provenance in the 20th century and particularly in the Nazi era.
Project director Birgit Jooss has recently published three blog posts highlighting particularly interesting transactions. The first concerns complicated barter deals, the second is on an ivory relief which was acquired at an important auction, organized to liquidate the stock of three major Berlin art galleries,Galerie van Diemen & Co GmbH, Altkunst Antiquitäten GmbH, Dr.Otto Burchard & Co GmbH,
held in January 1935 by the Berlin auctioneer Paul Graupe, and the third is about deals made with museums which enabled Böhler to buy on the French art market during the war.
To read these blog posts, please click here.
During the Occupation, the art market was in full swing in France: spoliations, looting of museums, lucrative art trafficking. In a podcast, Ines Rotermund-Reynard of INHA (Insititut national d'histoire de l'art) launches the new Directory of Art Market Actors under the German Occupation, shedding new light on well-kept secrets which will help advance the still sensitive issue of the restitution of spoliated works.
To listen to the podcast, click here.
The International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) has announced new functionality to its online Catalogues Raisonnés Database at www.ifar.org/cat_rais.php. The new features, designed in response to user requests, allow researchers to filter their searches to find digitized and online catalogues among the thousands of publications in the Database. Currently the Database contains information on more than 4,700 published and in-preparation catalogues raisonnés concerning 3,175 artists. These can be searched by author’s name, artist’s name, and artist’s place of birth, death or period of activity. The new filters enable users to limit search results to fully digitized print catalogues and both free and subscription-based “born-digital” online catalogues raisonnés. To date, the Database includes 280 digitized print catalogues and more than 200 online catalogues raisonnés, the majority of which are not listed in WorldCat or other library records. On the revamped site, filtered searches bring up annotated entries containing links to fully digitized print publications or online catalogues raisonnés. Searches will also bring up online catalogues raisonnés that are still in preparation. A previous enhancement enabled users to locate the nearest library holding a copy of a catalogue.
The Wildenstein Plattner Institute has announced the launch of the WPI Digital Archives – a repository of over 50,000 digital resources documenting the work of French dealers, collectors, and artists from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The source materials were originally assembled by the Wildenstein Institute throughout the 20th century for provenance and catalogue raisonné research.
In addition to the WPI Digital Archives, the Sales Catalogues database allows users to search 11,000+ pre-1945 annotated sales catalogues by keyword, auction house, city, date, artist, or collector name.
For more information visit wpi-art.org
Stephan Kellner, head of the Bavarica Department at the Bavarian State Library (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) Munich, died unexpectedly on 14 October. For many years he had been committed to the identification and restitution of Nazi looted books in the State Library and to assisting famiiies with thoughtfulness and understanding. Under his leadership, some 65,000 books acquired by the Library between 1933-1945 were researched, and looted books returned to their rightful owners. Research into a further 30,000 books from Nazi organisations given to the Library by the US military government after 1945 continues.
An obituary written by his colleagues in the German Working Group on Provenance Research and Restitution (Der Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung und Restitution) and the Libraries Commission on Provenance Research and Provenance Development (dbv - Kommission Provenienzforschung und Provenienzerschließung) is reproduced below:
We feel a great sadness. Suddenly and unexpectedly our dear colleague and friend Stephan Kellner has died.
Since the foundation of the „Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung und Restitution – Bibliotheken“ („Working Group Provenance Research and Restitution – Libraries“) he always enriched our meetings with his wise and modest character. In the last two years Stephan Kellner has simultaneously supported the dbv Kommission Provenienzforschung und Provenienzerschließung („Commission for Provenance Research and Restitution“) as a permanent guest.
We all benefited from his experiences, which he gladly shared with us. His good ideas we were privileged to adopt: be it creating an online exhibition or finding the appropriate approach to restitution. We fondly remember our 6th meeting, which Stephan and his colleagues organized in November 2016 in Munich. The meeting took place at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte and we were able to witness the restitution of books that had been owned by the art historian August Liebermann Mayer to his daughter Angelika B. Mayer’s representative. Stephan had organized the handing over in a very dignified and emphatic manner. He has consistently been a driving force in encouraging libraries to cooperate in the restitution of books – for example, in 2015 when books from the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums („Higher Institute for Jewish Studies“) were returned, or in 2017 when books were given back to the Loge zu den drei Weltkugeln (the masonic lodge „The Three Globes“). He picked us up, took us with him, and if necessary pushed us. His empathetic and dependable communication skills were, what made many restitutions even possible in the first place. He has motivated us not to slacken in our efforts to examine the stocks of our libraries for Nazi looted books and, if possible, to find heirs to whom we can give back the books.
You could always ask him – whether by phone or e-mail, Stephan always had an open ear. His fine sense of humor made him a pleasant and ever energizing companion. One enjoyed talking to him so very much. How we will miss that.
His family writes: „Those who knew him, know what we have lost.“ – We know.
The Paris Appeal Court ruled that there was sufficient evidence that the three Derain paintings -- one at the Musee Cantini in Marseille, and two at the Musée d’art Moderne de Troyes -- were in fact the paintings that René Gimpel had acquired before the war, and that they were sold under duress after 1940, during the war. The court ordered the return of all three works to the family. To read the judgement, click here.
An escape from war-torn Germany. Lavish dinners with Hollywood royalty. A Swedish baron and a dime-store heiress: we explore the long journey of a Van Gogh still life — and what it says about the real value of the things we treasure. This episode of Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History podcast is dedicated to Vase with Carnations by Vincent Van Gogh, now in the Detroit Institute of Arts and once in the collection of Hedwig Ullmann of Frankfurt, until she was forced to flee Germany and sell her art collection. The painting is not an important work of Van Gogh and languished in storage in Detroit for years as a painting of little artistic value. Yet when the Ullmann family found it, Detroit fought tooth and nail to keep it and now sells 'Vase with Carnations' soap and socks in its museum shop. He explores how the provenance hid the painting's real history and why Detroit behaved as it did. He is not a fan of Detroit, nor of the Toledo Museum of Art, nor of other US museums which refused to return the paintings of the Ullmann and other families, gripped with the compulsion to keep works of art come what may. To hear the podcast, click here.
The German Lost Art Foundation has published an English language version of the November 2019 'Leitfaden Provenienzforschung', with the title 'Provenance Research Manual to Identify Cultural Property Seized Due to Persecution during the National Socialist Era'. The guide is a joint project developed with the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e. V. (Provenance Research Association), Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung und Restitution – Bibliotheken (Provenance Research and Restitution Association of Libraries); the Deutscher Museumsbund e. V. (German Museums Association) representing the interests of museums; and its counterpart, the Deutsche Bibliotheksverband e. V. (German Library Association); and ICOM Germany e. V., the German chapter of the International Council of Museums.
The manual ranges from chapters on philosophy (the historical, ethical and moral obligation to confront Nazi looting of cultural property and the crime perpetrated by Nazi rule in general) to practice, methodology and case studies. It provides details on the kinds of numbers, stamps, labels, ex libris, trademarks, hallmarks, autographs, dedications, engravings and insertions to be found in and on objects and their significance. It lists archival sources, in Germany and elsewhere, literature and other online resources, and genealogical data and resources. There is a chapter on documenting research transparently and on the obligation to publish all looted works and all works with gaps in their provenance (1933-1945) on lostart.de, the database of the German Lost Art Foundation. All involved in Germany are urged to report any restitutions to the Foundation. A penultimate chapter focuses on just and fair solutions, looks at the presumption of loss and burden of proof, the search for heirs and the deployment of the German Advisory Commission. The final chapter provides information on the participating institutions, national claims panels, and training and education opportunities in Germany. An Annex lists useful databases and sources on art dealers.
The Report is the first of an annual US government review of the national laws and enforceable policies of 46 of the 47 countries (excluding the US itself) that endorsed the 2009 Terezin Declaration. On art the Report concludes:
'In the realm of movable property, there is much left to do to identify looted art and facilitate a fair solution for its return to rightful owners or their heirs. In most European countries, too many public and private art museums still do not conduct provenance research on their art collections, research that is essential to providing information about potential claims for Nazi-confiscated art. A handful of countries have only recently begun working on the necessary legislation and mechanisms for restituting artwork, and many others have yet to do so. France, which originally had been slow in doing provenance research, is now the only country where the effort to identify, return or compensate Nazi-confiscated artworks and cultural objects rests in the office of the head of government, the prime minister. The country, however, has not revised the law that stipulates that artworks that have been incorporated into public collections cannot be removed from public museums, even if they were confiscated by the Nazis from private collections. The Netherlands, which had done exemplary provenance research and restitution, recently adopted a “balancing test” that gives its museums the right to retain Nazi-confiscated artworks if their interests outweigh those of representatives of families from whom the Nazis confiscated the art. Hungary has conducted some research on its holdings of major looted art but has not provided restitution, nor has it made its research public.
Russia, meanwhile, has essentially nationalized most art and cultural property taken by the Soviet Trophy Brigades, which sent valuables back to Russia from occupied territories (including Germany) in 1945. Despite having enacted a law based upon the 1998 Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, Russia has done little to conduct provenance research or to restitute or compensate for art recovered at the end of WWII that had been confiscated by the Nazis from Jewish and non-Jewish victims.
There are also positive trends worth highlighting. Five countries – Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom – have established dispute resolution panels to resolve art claims, as envisioned by the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration. Moreover, in January 2019, the European Parliament passed legislation recognizing the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. It urged the European Commission to support the cataloguing of all data on looted cultural goods and to establish principles for dealing with cultural property in future conflicts.
Based on a November 2018 Joint Declaration with the Expert Adviser to the State Department on Holocaust-Era Issues and the Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Germany allocated significant funds to both public and private museums for provenance research and has informed its public museums that they cannot continue to obtain federal funds unless they participate in the claims process. Germany also reaffirmed that the precepts it committed to in endorsing the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration apply to private museums and collections, as well as to public museums.
Another area examined in this report is the progress in identifying, cataloguing, and preserving Judaica that may be found in libraries, museums, and other repositories; their return to their original owners and other appropriate individuals and institutions; and in particular, the restoration of sacred scrolls and ceremonial objects to their original sacred use in synagogues. Return of confiscated Judaica and Jewish cultural property has generally not received as much focus as confiscated and looted art. In the case of certain countries, such as Belarus, progress in this area has stalled. After World War II, the Soviet Trophy Brigades brought hundreds of thousands of books from France to Minsk that had been stolen by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg – a Nazi organization tasked with expropriating Jewish cultural property. Most of these books, experts agree, are located in Minsk.'
To read the Report in full and its findings on art, Judaica, real estate, archives and memorialisation, click here.
Beginning in 1933, the German Government revoked German citizenship for tens of thousands of German Jews, not only those resident in Germany, but also those who had left Germany and were resident in other countries. It took similar action against persons resident in parts of Czechoslovakia which had been annexed. Less well known was the revocation of business licenses or even seizure of firms which had been owned by Jews or political opponents. These public actions, totaling nearly 90,000 names of persons and firms, mixed together, were regularly published in the Reichsanzeiger, the official German gazette.
In 1985 a compilation of the citizenship revocations was published in book form by K.G. Saur, Die Ausbürgerung deutscher Staatsangehoriger 1933-1945 (The Expatriation of German Citizens, 1933-1945). However, persons resident outside Germany as well as firms whose names/assets had been seized were not included. The nature/location of property/assets which had been seized was not identified.
These are all now available in a single searchable database on JewishGen. An introduction, 'Revoked German Citizenship and Property Seizures 1933-1945' by Peter Lande is at https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/holocaust/RevokedGermanCitizenship.html. The database, which is listed in the JewishGen Holocaust Database, is at https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Holocaust/. The information in the database came from Herbert Birett, a German researcher and his original data can be found in a spreadsheet at https://tinyurl.com/y7w4ue6j.
In its latest and unprecedented recommendation, the Commission awarded restitution on moral and ethical grounds to the claimants, heirs of A.B., the former owner of a private bank in Berlin, of the painting 'Lemon Slice' by the Dutch Old Master Jacob Ochtervelt The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (bavarian State Paintings Collections) had received the painting as a donation from the daughter of Frits Thyssen in 1987, had never displayed it and had wished to sell it but were impeded by the problematic provenance. They had opposed restitution on the grounds that A.B. had never been the unconditional owner of the painting, which had been acquired through a loan for which the painting was collateral.
However, the Commission, in its unprecedented decision, set out the series of persecutions to which A.B. and his family had been subject, referred to the 'impressive account of the outstanding symbolic importance the family attaches to the painting' and stated that it recommended 'the restitution of the painting [solely] in order to contribute in this way to recognising and making amends for a piece of historical injustice. In so doing, the Commission also takes into account the fact that the interests of the applicants are not opposed by any comparably important interests of the applicant. The defendant received the painting as part of a larger purchase. With regard to the "Lemon Slice", this was not based on a curatorial decision; the painting is not part of the concept of the collection and has not been exhibited by the collection to date'. The restitution is subject to the State of Bavaria receiving 50% of the proceeds of any sale that takes place within ten years of the restitution.
To read the judgement (which was issued solely in German), click here.
To read a guide English translation of the judgement, click here.
Following a three year project funded by the German Lost Art Foundation, the Germanisches National Museum has digitised and put online three of the five travel diaries of Hans Posse, Director of the Dresden Gemaeldegalerie and Hitler's Special Representative for building up his Führermuseum in Linz and for preparing and implementing a distribution programme of artworks to museums in the Reich (1939-1942). Posse's documents in the Deutsche Kunstarchiv include his service diary and five travel diaries documenting his business trips on behalf of Hitler which have been largely unpublished and unexplored to date.
The Reisekladden (Diaries) are great sources for research on Nazi art theft, Nazi museum politics and provenance research containing information Posse needed for his verbal and written reports to Hitler as well as for his conceptual and operational work. They show the full range of his work for Hitler and prove that he was not only Hitler's chief buyer for the Führer Museum, but also Hitler's most important manager of art looting.
The Diaries document in a singular way Posse's activities in the occupied territories, for example in Poland and France, and his contacts with NSDAP organizations such as the local Gauleiters, Gestapo offices, military art protection units, etc. These are not reflected in other archives for the Sonderkommando Linz because they were confidential and only discussed orally. It makes it possible to reconstruct, for example, Posse's inspections of confiscated private collections, as well as his connections to the art trade and the network of art agents he built up, as well as to the competing Nazi organizations in occupied Europe. In doing so, individual works of art are regularly mentioned with their prices and terms of purchase or acquisition.
Hans Posse usually made his travel notes in pencil, directly on site, for example in the looted art depots he visited. The pencil line has now faded, the handwriting is often undisciplined and therefore difficult to decipher, place and person names are often misspelled. The poor readability of the diaries makes it considerably more difficult for the reader to access the content, and requires transcription. The notes also have to be deciphered, as they are usually short notes and lists, which are rarely interrupted by continuous text. Posse often used abbreviations that are not commonly used, such as "Rbdt." (For Rembrandt) or "Hbst." (for the art dealer Karl Haberstock). People, institutions, locations or works have been now indexed and annotated to faciliate research. In addition, historical context and additional background information have been provided to help with reading the diaries.
To access the three digitised diaries, the list of names appearing in them and to learn how to navigate the digitised copies, go to https://editionhansposse.gnm.de/
The German Historical Museum (DHM, Deutsches Historisches Museum) hosts databases of the records of the Munich Central Collecting Point, the Linz and Göring collections but the site has been down since the beginning of March and there is no imminent prospect of repair. There are two alternative locations for the records. One is Fold 3, which has the property cards, scanned and available, sourced from the US National Archives; the second is the Bundesarchiv where new high-resolution colour scans of the property cards are also available online at https://invenio.bundesarchiv.de (subject to registration) through the following search sequence:
- Bundesrepublik Deutschland mit westalliierten Besatzungszonen (1945 ff)
- Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1949 ff)
- Finanzen, Wirtschaft
- B 323 Treuhandverwaltung von Kulturgut bei der
- 5 Restitution von Kunstwerken
- 5.3 Restitutionsnachweise
- B 323/647 bis B 323/694
The recently founded Schweizerischer Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung (Swiss Association for Provenance Research) has just launched its website and is now open for membership applications. The Association supports the establishment of provenance research and provides a network for provenance researchers in Switzerland. It also encourages the study of the art market and of exhibition and museum history. Details of the association and its board can be found at provenienzforschung.ch (in German and French).
This project interrogates the Jewish contribution to the making of the National Gallery. Despite the importance of many Jewish collectors associated with the Gallery – including Alfred de Rothschild, Ludwig Mond, Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted – these men and women have never been studied as a group in relation to the growth of the institution. Focusing on the period from the foundation of the National Gallery (1824) to the end of the Second World (1945), this project will investigate the role of Jewish donors, dealers and trustees in constructing the collections and in administering the institution. The project will consider what, if anything, was distinctive about Jewish taste in painting, and uncover the motivations behind acts of philanthropy on the part of this cultural minority. It will reconstruct the Jewish presence within networks of kinship, business and sociability that sustained the National Gallery in an era of dramatic expansion yet economic hardship and analyse the dynamics which resulted in paintings owned by eminent Jewish collectors entering the public domain in the era before the Holocaust. The project ‘Jewish Collectors and Donors at the National Gallery (c.1830-1945)’ will provide an opportunity to research a fascinating chapter in Jewish history and the history of collecting and allow the student to receive supervision and training across two outstanding institutions. Full details available here.
Application deadline: 8 June 2020
Start date: 1 October 2020
The Munich Central Collecting Point (CCP) database is back online, though with limited functionality. There are limitations in the extended search via the list function, such as the link to the database of the Linz collection. But searches via the Munich and Linz numbers work now, as do searches for single criteria in the advanced search.
Issued under the current Austrian chairmanship, the newsletter includes a news section, two cases studies, of a Jacobs Lierens claim in the Netherlands and a Josef and Alice Morgenstern recommendation in Austria, an article on provenance research at the V&A Museum, two conference reports and articles on art restitution in the US and tracing of owners of looted artworks in Austria. To read the newsletter, click here.
ZADIK, the Central Archive for German and International Art Market Research, is the world's only specialized archive on the history of the art market. It was founded in 1992 as the central archive of the German and international art trade by the Federal Association of German Galleries and Art Dealers BVDG as a non-profit association. At the end of 2014, ZADIK became an affiliated institute of the Philosophical Department of the University of Cologne. Now ZADIK has been incorporated into the University of Cologne as an independent research institute of the Faculty of Philosophy. To read the University of Cologne Press Release, click here.
James D. Bindenagel, US Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues from 1998-2002, and Conference Director for the 1998 Washington Conference on Nazi-Confiscated Art, has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the petition for a hearing by the US Supreme Court by the heirs of Paul and Alice Leffmann in respect of their claim for Picasso's 'The Actor' now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Ambassador Bindenagel, now Director of the Center for International Security and Governance at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Bonn, Germany, argues ia that an earlier court decision that the heirs had waited too long to file their claim is inconsistent with US policy and the HEAR Act:
'The decision threatens to eviscerate the express will of Congress. By limiting the HEAR Act to one time-based defense, the court below will prevent Holocaust-era art claims from being heard on their merits—the precise result that the HEAR Act seeks to avoid. Given that the HEAR Act was a statute intended to have national reach, this Court’s intervention is warranted to prevent the Act from becoming a dead letter.'
As the persecution and mass murder of European Jews unfolded, and shortly after the liberation, activists set out to document the fate of their communities. Jewish historical committees in several countries collected documents, artifacts and testimonies and brought together a major body of evidence - yet one which was later forgotten or used reluctantly. EHRI (European Holocaust Research Infrastructure) for the first time, brings together samples of early testmonies of Jewish witnesses and survivors taken before the 1960s. The testimonies are all on the site in their original form and langauge, and there is also an English translation of every text. To visit the site, click here.
Launched only in German and in Germany, and aiming to make the content "transparently accessible", the database contains the results of provenance and associated research projects funded by the DZK, the data from which has not previously been transparent or accessible. Search categories include people, businesses, events, collections, provenance information, objects, and further documentary sources, and content includes that of the Lost Art database.
Although the DZK states, in the only English language text about it on the site, that "Proveana provides assistance for those whose cultural assets were seized [and] for their descendants", no part of the database, including the registration to use it and press release about it, are in English, the language most accessible to the victims of the Nazis and their descendants. The DZK English language site makes no reference to Proveana, while the German language site features a number of documents about it. It seems that the DZK has no plans currently to change this.
To read about Proveana and to access the database, click here.
In a letter of 17 December 2019 to Holland's Council for Culture (Raad voor Cultuur), the Culture Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven reminds the Council that 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War during which large scale looting of cultural property took place from mostly Jewish owners. The current restitution policy was drawn up in 2001 in order to combat the injustice and the restitutions that had not been made by the Netherlands.
While much has been achieved, and amendments made since then, she states that there is much concern about whether the restitution policy in its current form is still adequate. In 2016 her predecessor as minister promised Parliament that the policy would be thoroughly re-evaluated in 2020, and she commands the Council to set up an advisory committee with the following remit:
She states that "In order to carry out this assignment, I expect you to hold discussions with the parties involved" and instructs the Committee 'to include at least the following aspects in its evaluation of the policy:
She writes that she 'would like to receive the Council's advice on restitution policy before 1 October 2020, after which I will submit my response to the House of Representatives'.
To read the letter, in Dutch, click here.
In his editorial, Clemens Jabloner, chair of the Austrian Art Restitution Board and Austrian Federal Minister of Justice, writes:
Further and closer cooperation on different questions can be expected in the future, not least the discussion of comparative law and the various legal solutions. At the conference marking the twentieth anniversary of the CIVS in November, my British counterpart in art restitution, Sir Donnell Deeny, stated publicly: “The particular element that our five committees have in common is that they are all chaired by serving or retired senior judges, and, thus, inherently qualified and disposed to provide to the parties a fair process and independent and impartial adjudication.” I am curious to find out what other similarities and points in common will be identified in the future.
To read the Newsletter, click here.
At the end of December 2019 the Dutch Restitutions Committee published their recommendation of restitution for 107 Meissen objects to the heirs of Dr Franz Oppenheimer. At the beginning of January 2020 they published their recommendation of restituiton for 14 Meissen objects to the heirs of Herbert Gutmann. In the Oppenheimer case the DRC concluded that it was 'highly likely' that Dr Oppenheimer 'lost possession of these objects involuntarily due to circumstances directly related to the Nazi regime' and that they should be restituted even if they were of importance to the Dutch state. In the Gutmann case, the DRC concluded the objects were 'auctioned off involuntarily, under pressure caused by circumstances directly connected with the Nazi regime. On these grounds, the Committee's opinion is that the Applicants' interests in the restitution of the objects must be given greater weight than the State's interests in retaining them'.
All 107 Oppenheimer object groups are currently 'part of the Dutch National Art Collection. Of these, 90 object groups are on loan to the Rijksmuseum. The other seventeen object groups are part of the Netherlands Art Property Collection (the NK collection) and are on loan to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag (thirteen object groups) and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (four object groups)'. The 14 Gutmann objects are currently 'in Het Loo Palace, the Rijksmuseum and the Zuiderzeemuseum. All objects are part of the Dutch National Art Collection and are the property of the Dutch State'.
To read the Oppenheimer recommendation, click here. To read the Gutmann recommendation, click here.
To read the Gutmann heirs' press release, click here.
The Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (ZLB) has now digitised three volumes of the Dietzler Auto-Adressbuch for Grosse-Berlin (Greater Berlin) for the years 1932-1934 and these are freely available to all users at https://digital.zlb.de/viewer/metadata/34280679/1/LOG_0000/
Carel van Lier c. 1930. Looted and
restituted ivory hunting horn
©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld
The Lost Music Project seeks to reconstruct the history of musical material culture looted, confiscated, displaced, or otherwise lost during the Nazi era in occupied Europe, and the aftermath. Evolving research regarding musical manuscripts, printed music, music-related books and archives, musical instruments, and other musicalia documented in public and private archives will be posted to the Project website. In addition to new research, a goal of this project is to make both information and copies of primary source historical records accessible to the public for further research efforts and analysis. The project is led by Dr Carla Shapreau, Lecturer in art and cultural property law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Senior Fellow in the Institute of European Studies, where she is conducting cultural property research, and Curator of the Salz Collection in the Department of Music. For further informaton and to see the website, click here.
The latest Newletter has an editorial by chair of the German Commission, Hans-Jürgen Papier, who writes that the Network is important since "all commissions are dealing with similar problems in the handling of their cases, such as how to deal with gaps in the provenance of an item which, despite intensive research, can not be closed; also dealing with the so-called «Fluchtgut» is one of the aspects that are discussed intensively. For this reason, I am very confident that the network has created another important measure, which will strengthen the work of the commissions in terms of identifying and returning Nazi-looted property and finding fair and just solutions."
Elsewhere in the Newsletter is the 2018 annual report of France's CIVS; advanced notice of a report for the Network by Dr Charlotte Woodhead, to be published in November, on how each committee operates and the differences in approach in determining claims (Recommendation 3 of the 2017 Spoliation Action Plan); a report on the 2011 successful claim by the Budge heirs for three Meissen figures in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and the 'presentation' of the Austrian Art Restitution Act and the two bodies created as a result, the Commission for Provenance Research and the Advisory Board.
To read the Newsletter, click here.
The claimants for the Guelph Treasure (Welfenschatz) in the possession of Germany's Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK) have filed their opposition to the petition filed by the SPK and the Federal Republic of Germany in September 2019 seeking judicial review of a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholding jurisdiction over the claims. That court rejected in July 2018 and again in June 2019 the appeal by the SPK arguing that the US courts had no jurisdiction over the claim. Germany’s petition to the Supreme Court argues that the allegations concerning the Guelph Treasure were not a taking of property in violation of international law, but rather a question of the Nazis’ taking property from “their own nationals within their own territory.” In response, the claimants argue that the U.S. statute conferring jurisdiction applies to genocidal takings of property in the Holocaust, and that U.S. policy as reflected in the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act compels hearing the case.
The claimants also filed a request to return Germany to the lawsuit. The same Court of Appeals last year ruled that the commercial activity of the SPK in the United States was insufficient under the law to obtain jurisdiction over Germany. The claimants address their argument that this reading is at odds with the statute’s text. Germany will have the opportunity to respond in the next 30 days.
The Technical University of Berlin in collaboration with the Department of Modern Art History (Prof. Bénédicte Savoy) is undertaking a one-year project dedicated to the systematic examination and research of the Adolph Menzel Collection of the Berlin banker Ludwig Ginsberg (1873-1939). The extensive collection of Menzel's graphic works comprised a large number of rare prints and contained works on paper, some of them of exceptional quality and beauty. It was described in 1930 as the largest Menzel collection ever in private ownership. The Ginsberg Collection was auctioned off in several lots and is largely lost today. So far, works from the collection have appeared in the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin and at the Leopold-Hoesch-Museum in Düren. Both museums will restitute the works that have been added to their collections as a result of persecution.
The project also focuses on research into Ludwig Ginsberg's fate as a persecuted person and the aryanization of the Bank Gebrüder Ginsberg. The TU seeks proactive support for the project, especially from colleagues in provenance research and custodians of graphic collections. The project is funded by the Deutsche Zentrum Kulturgutverluste. Further information about the project and the Ginsberg family can be found here.
A German government funded research project on international practice in the restitution of artworks stolen under the Nazi regime has been established. Led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Weller, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach professor of civil law, art and cultural property law at the University of Bonn, it aims "to provide a comprehensive, comparative analysis of international practice in the restitution of Nazi-looted art [and] to establish a generalized set of rules on how decisions are made based on considerations of fairness and justice. Once established, these rules can be used as guidance and support for those who make decisions and recommendations on matters of restitution."
For full details and to attend the presentation of the project in Bonn on 6 September, click here.
The German Minister of State for Culture and Media, Monika Grütters, in agreement with the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder and the municipal umbrella organisations, has appointed three new members to the 'Advisory Commission in connection with the restitution of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, in particular from Jewish ownership' for a ten year term. They are Marieluise Beck, former Member of the Bundestag, Dr Eva Lohse, former Mayor of Ludwigshafen, and Prof. Dr Sabine Schulze, Director of the Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe. The appointment of new members had become necessary following the departure of previous members.
Other members are the art historian and Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Commission Prof. Dr Wolf Tegethoff, the former President of the Federal Administrative Court Marion Eckertz-Höfer, the President of the German Historical Museum Prof. Dr Raphael Gross, the legal and social philosopher Prof. Dr Dietmar von der Pfordten, the former Director of the American Academy in Berlin Dr Gary Smith and the former President of the Bundestag Prof. Dr Rita Süssmuth. The Chairman of the Commission is the former President of the Federal Constitutional Court, Prof. Dr Hans-Jürgen Papier.
On 18 and 19 November 1938, 43 works from the 'O.' collection of Frankfurt am Main, designated in the auction catalogue as 'non-Aryan' or 'Nichtarischer Besitz', were sold by the Hans Lange auction house in Berlin. They included paintings by Aert van der Neer, Jacob Ruysdael, Thomas Wijck, Franz von Lenbach, Adolf Lier, Caspar Scheuren, Carl Spitzweg and Adolf von Menzel. If anyone has information on the identity of the owner of the 'O' collection, please write to email@example.com. To see the Lange catalogue, click here.
Country-specific information is available on this site for 48 countries, from Albania to Yugoslavia, in the Information by Country section. Details of important, non country-specific, online resources are available in the International section of the site which contains several categories of information. For example:
Restitutions and Case News: provides details of claims and cases ruled on or settled outside the courts with copies of reports and rulings. Full details of a comprehensive range of cases can be found in the News Archive, which is fully searchable by name of family, artwork, museum, city, etc.
Lawsuits: provides details of claims and cases ruled on or being settled in court with copies of court filings and judgements.
Research Resources: provides details of family records, tracing services, art historical resources, texts of post-war reports, and books and publications.
Web Resources: provides details of various online databases of looted paintings, results of provenance research in countries around the world, archival records available online and other research materials.
Seeking Owners of Identified Looted Property: provides lists of names of individuals whose looted property has been identified in institutions in Germany and whose heirs are being sought.
Other categories of information include Governmental Conferences and Hearings, Laws, Policies and Guidelines, Art Trade, and Press, Television, Radio and Film. To explore all these sections, click here.
The site is regularly updated with new resources and developments. To provide details of resources or cases to add to the site, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.