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'Kraftfahrzeuge als Gegenstand von »Arisierungen«: Provenienzforschung zur Kraftfahrzeug- sammlung des Deutschen Museums und Forschungen zur Enteignung von Kraftfahrzeugen in Bayern'

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Kraftfahrzeuge als Gegenstand von »Arisierungen«: Provenienzforschung zur Kraftfahrzeug- sammlung des Deutschen Museums und Forschungen zur Enteignung von Kraftfahrzeugen in Bayern


Oliver Kühschelm


December 2012


English title: Motor Vehicles as an Object of "Aryanisation": Provenance Research on the Vehicle Collection at the Deutsches Museum Munich and Research on the Expropriation of Motor Vehicles in Bavaria

The aim of the provenance research was to establish whether the Museum’s collection includes motor vehicles that were expropriated during the Nazi period from 1933 to 1945. The research pertained to cars, motorcycles, car engines, and  undercarriages. Using mainly archival records from the Museum itself, each and every one of the 327 objects was classified according to a tripartite scheme: While no object was identified as having been stolen from Nazi victims, the  provenance of only 65 items has been classified as »unobjectionable «. However, the archival sources do not easily allow an unequivocal conclusion. In 185 cases, files must on principle remain »open« to future research. There are 80  objects that no longer form part of the collection (objects on loan that were returned to their owners; war losses).

Although it is important not to exclude acquisitions from after 1945, those dating from the Nazi period probably command the most interest. From 1936 to 1938, the Museum greatly increased its collection of motor vehicles. It cooperated  closely with the automobile industry, which donated or loaned historic objects. As the Museum possessed only limited storage space, it generally did not buy vehicles, or accept donations from private individuals. It seems that the Museum  neither sought to benefit from the massive »aryanization« of motor vehicles in 1938/39, nor from booty during the war.

The second part of the report studies the »aryanization« of motor vehicles in Bavaria. So far, motor vehicles have not been subject to research concerning the expropriation of Jewish property in Nazi Germany. In the case of Nuremberg, a  study of archival documentation gives us a detailed picture of the looting of cars in the wake of Kristallnacht. According to the Gestapo, there were still some 300 motor vehicles in Jewish hands prior to the pogrom. This changed quickly as Vice-Gauleiter Karl Holz established a commission that forced Jews to sell off their real estate and cars at a fraction of their market value. The beneficiaries of these transactions were party officials and other persons with close ties to the local Nazi elite. This was much to the chagrin of the central authorities of the National Socialist regime, who wanted the Reich to profit from the expropriations. Therefore the Gestapo was commissioned to investigate the transactions. If the purchaser did not make an additional payment to close the gap with the estimated market price, he was forced to relinquish the car. Apart from the looting organised by the party or the state, many private individuals also seized the opportunity to come by a car very cheaply. If the prospective buyer happened to be a party official, he could bring additional pressure to bear on the negotiations. Jews had nothing to win but a lot to lose, as the transaction could lead to further embroilment in an already dangerous situation.

To read the paper, click here.


Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik, München: Preprint 4

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