Foundation as mediator: Heirs of Paul Graf Yorck von Wartenburg receive Kleist’s “Käthchen von Heilbronn” back
With support from the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg, the heirs of Paul Graf Yorck von Wartenburg have received back a volume from the Sembdner Kleist archive in Heilbronn. The count’s collection was lost after the Second World War and is today classed as looted property. The heirs are donating the work to the archive as a gift.
During a review of its holdings, the Sembdner Kleist archive registered the book’s library stamp “Graf Yorck Klein-Oels Majorats-Bibliothek” and learned from the Lost Art Database operated by the Foundation that a search report had been registered for the collection belonging to the Count of Wartenburg. The Foundation got in touch with the heirs, who had entered a search report for the collection in the database in 2005, and established contact. Delighted with the efforts of the Sembdner Kleist archive, the heirs are leaving the work to the archive.
The volume is entitled “Das Käthchen von Heilbronn. Großes romantisches Ritterschauspiel in fünf Aufzügen” (1834) by Heinrich von Kleist. The Sembdner Kleist archive had purchased the work in 2014 from an antiquarian bookseller in Munich.
Paul Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, the last owner of Klein Oels palace in Ohlau (Silesia), was imprisoned from July 20, 1944, as a resistance fighter. His property was expropriated and he was held in Sachsenhausen concentration camp until the end of the war. Despite his imprisonment, he managed to ensure the most valuable books were taken to the orangery at the palace of Count Schaffgotsch in Warmbrunn. From there, the provincial conservator of Lower Silesia, Grundmann, was able to transport around 800 volumes to the west by train in January 1945. These are still in the family’s possession.
One to two thousand volumes from the Klein Oels library were taken to the Soviet Union by the Soviet Trophy Commissions at the end of the war, with the majority of these now found in seven Russian libraries. The substantial remaining part of the collection ended up in the holdings of libraries in Wroclaw, Warsaw and Lodz after the war. Time and again, books belonging to the Yorck family make their way back onto the German market from there.