In September 1951 a 24-year-old German-born Londoner, Susanne Schaefer, inherited 1,500 paintings and drawings from her father, the popular German artist, cartoonist and illustrator Albert Schaefer-Ast. But there was a problem. She was unable to obtain possession of her inheritance because her father had lived and died in what was then the Soviet-occupied zone of East Germany. Before the Second World War Susanne had been sent to the UK as a 12-year-old Kindertransport refugee because her mother, Steffie, was Jewish. A few months later Steffie herself was allowed into the UK as a refugee from Nazi persecution; but Albert, who was not Jewish, had to stay in Germany.
This profusely illustrated book tells the story of how all the artworks inherited by Susanne seemingly disappeared in the early 1960s and remained mysteriously hidden for 45 years. Susanne died in 2002 without ever finding out what had happened to her inheritance. But several years later many of her paintings and drawings started to be offered for sale by two art galleries and an auction house in what had formerly been the communist-controlled German Democratic Republic.
John Buck and Susanne Schaefer were married in 1954. He is a former journalist, now living as a widower in north London. He is also the editor of Letters from East Germany, 1946-1951 (published by Rochart, 2008); and Humour is the Best Doctor (Rochart,2018), both by Albert Schaefer-Ast.