Research Projects and Resources :

The fate of Jewish art collectors and dealers in Munich 1933-1945

On 1 June 2009 the state and municipal museums in Munich announced a collaborative project on " The fate of Jewish art collectors and dealers in Munich, 1933-1945".  

The project was led by Dr. Vanessa-Maria Voigt, author of  Kunsthändler und Sammler der Moderne im Nationalsozialismus: Die Sammlung Sprengel 1934 bis 1945, who most recently had worked for the city of Hanover, and by Horst Kessler, author of Karl Haberstock. Umstrittener Kunsthändler und Mäzen' and provenance researcher for the art collections and museums in the city of Augsburg.  The three other leaders of the project were Dr Andrea Bambi, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Dr Irene Netta, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Bernhard Purin, Director of the Jewish Museum. The project was scheduled to take three years.

The project was completed but the results were never published. A new project, which began in January 2015, in collaboration with the University of Erfurt and Professor Dr Christiane Kuller will re-evaluate the sources and publish the results. The publication is being financed by the Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen in Bayern (State Office for Non-State Museums in Bavaria). For further details, see

The subject of the original project as described in 2009
In winter 1938/39 the Secret State Police in Munich under the so-called "Jewish Action" seized works of art from Jewish private property. These were initially acquired by the Bavarian National Museum and the Munich City Museum and then further distributed to the Pinakotheken, the Graphic Arts Collection, the National Museum, Munich City Museum and Städtische Galerie whose directors gladly received them. The owners received nothing. After the war, many of the art works were found in the Nazi repositories. From there, they were sent by the Allies to the Central Collecting Point in Munich and Wiesbaden and restituted as far as possible to their rightful owners or their legal successors.

The names of the Jewish art collectors and dealers was recorded in the ALIU Report (Art looting Investigation Unit, Final Report, Washington 1 May, 1946). The goal of this new research project is to provide biographies of those whose property was seized, who so far number about 70 dealers and 30 collectors, and to document their art collections. The main result will be the publication in the summer of 2012 of a book on the Jewish art collectors and dealers of Munich and their art collections.

Historically, the majority of the Munich art dealer since the second half of the 19th century were Jewish.  The most famous were Otto Bernheimer, Heinrich Thannhauser and Fritz and Hugo Helbing. The art of the latter dealership was "aryanized" but the family continues today.  Heinrich Thannhauser died in 1934, his son had to leave Nazi Germany and emigrated in 1939 from Paris to the USA, where he built a new career in New York.

Some very detailed studies already exist, for example, of the collections of Alfred Pringsheim and Siegfried Lämmle.  But who were Siegfried and Joanna Adler, Julius and Margaret's son David Katzenstein, to name just a few of the 70 names whose collections were seized in December 1938? And what was the source of the precise information that allowed the collections to be seized? The project is also the story of the acquisition policies of the museums and auction houses.   

Participating museums were the Bavarian State Painting Collections, the Jewish Museum Munich, the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, the Munich City Museum, the Museum Villa Stuck, the Bavarian National Museum and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung.

To read the original 2009 press release, click here

2009 Press Release accessed on 30 October 2015