Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Provenance research conducted at two privately funded Jewish museums for the first time

Date 2020.06.11

The Jew­ish Mu­se­um of West­phalia in Dorsten (North Rhine-West­phalia) and Mu­se­um Syn­a­goge Gröbzig (Sax­ony-An­halt) are be­gin­ning to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ex­am­ine their col­lec­tions in or­der to iden­ti­fy prop­er­ty that may have been con­fis­cat­ed by the Nazis. These re­search ac­tiv­i­ties have been made pos­si­ble thanks to fund­ing from the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion. It is the first time that pri­vate­ly fund­ed Jew­ish mu­se­ums have re­ceived fi­nan­cial sup­port from the Foun­da­tion for prove­nance re­search.

The Jew­ish Mu­se­um of West­phalia was new­ly es­tab­lished in 1992. It is a pri­vate in­sti­tu­tion run by the As­so­ci­a­tion for Jew­ish His­to­ry and Re­li­gion. When the mu­se­um was found­ed, there was no ex­ist­ing col­lec­tion of ob­jects to build on. In­stead, a col­lec­tion was cre­at­ed large­ly through ac­qui­si­tions from Ju­daica auc­tions and an­tique deal­ers, and to a less­er ex­tent through do­na­tions. Rit­u­al ob­jects make up the ma­jor­i­ty of the cur­rent col­lec­tion; these were ac­quired by the mu­se­um and its founders be­tween 1988 and 1991. Many of these ob­jects are pre­sumed to have once been owned by Jew­ish fam­i­lies. An­oth­er part of the col­lec­tion con­sists of doc­u­ments, let­ters and books, many of which have in­scrip­tions in­di­cat­ing their ori­gin or own­er. The project is ex­am­in­ing whether the ob­jects came on­to the mar­ket af­ter be­ing seized from vic­tims of Nazi per­se­cu­tion.

A sys­tem­at­ic in­ven­to­ry check is to be con­duct­ed at the pri­vate­ly run Mu­se­um Syn­a­goge Gröbzig to ex­am­ine the prove­nance of items in its hold­ings. Mu­se­umsvere­in Gröbziger Syn­a­goge e.V., a mu­se­um as­so­ci­a­tion formed in 2017, is the body re­spon­si­ble for the mu­se­um. The syn­a­gogue of Gröbzig’s Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty was in­au­gu­rat­ed in 1796. In 1934, the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty was com­pelled to hand over the syn­a­gogue com­plex to the town of Gröbzig, who set up a mu­se­um of lo­cal his­to­ry on the premis­es. Var­i­ous un­clear changes were sub­se­quent­ly made to the in­ven­to­ry. The ori­gin of ap­prox. 250 in­ven­to­ried ob­jects that were added to the col­lec­tion of the lo­cal his­to­ry mu­se­um will be ex­am­ined as part of the project.

Jew­ish Mu­se­um of West­phalia (on­ly Ger­man ver­sion)

Mu­se­um Syn­a­goge Gröbzig (on­ly Ger­man ver­sion)