Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Ferdinand von Schirach allows historic family collection to be examined for Nazi-confiscated property

Date 2019.04.17

The writ­er Fer­di­nand von Schirach is tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for his fam­i­ly’s his­to­ry. Af­ter seek­ing ad­vice from the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion, he de­cid­ed to use his own funds to fi­nance a study of the art­works that once be­longed to his grand­par­ents, Bal­dur and Hen­ri­ette von Schirach. The Foun­da­tion ar­ranged for him to work with an ex­pe­ri­enced project or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Zen­tralin­sti­tut für Kun­st­geschichte in Mu­nich, who—with­out any in­ter­fer­ence from Fer­di­nand von Schirach—com­mis­sioned a prove­nance re­searcher to un­der­take the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This meant the au­ton­o­my of the study was guar­an­teed, which was a top pri­or­i­ty for Fer­di­nand von Schirach. He on­ly met the prove­nance re­searcher, There­sa Sepp, at the pre­sen­ta­tion of the re­search find­ings.

The study pur­sued three goals: First­ly, the re­con­struc­tion of the col­lec­tion of art and cul­tur­al ob­jects owned by Bal­dur and Hen­ri­ette von Schirach be­tween 1933 and 1945. The sec­ond aim was to ex­am­ine Bal­dur von Schirach’s his­toric role as Re­ich Gov­er­nor in Vi­en­na from 1940, with re­gard to the seizure and uti­liza­tion of art­works. And fi­nal­ly, the prove­nance re­searcher traced back Hen­ri­ette von Schirach’s ef­forts to re­claim the items that had been tak­en away by the Al­lies at the end of the war. The re­sults of this four-month study are now ready and are sum­ma­rized briefly in the fact sheet in the an­nex.

Sum­ming up, Fer­di­nand von Schirach said: “I am filled with anger and shame about the fact that, even af­ter the war and af­ter the im­ages of the lib­er­a­tion of Auschwitz, my grand­moth­er dared to ask the au­thor­i­ties for ob­jects and art­works that had been stolen from Jew­ish fam­i­lies. That is a sec­ond act of guilt, a re­peat of ter­ri­ble crimes, an­oth­er rob­bery. Per­haps it might help the vic­tims and their de­scen­dants to know what his­to­ri­ans are able to es­tab­lish to­day. In these cir­cum­stances, I ap­peal to the leg­is­la­tor to com­pel art deal­ers and auc­tion hous­es to open up their archives in these un­am­bigu­ous cas­es. In my opin­ion, the le­git­i­mate in­ter­ests of the vic­tims and the re­search far out­weigh the ques­tion­able pro­tec­tion of buy­er and sell­er pri­va­cy here. I would be de­light­ed if oth­er fam­i­lies would pur­sue a sim­i­lar course. It is now our coun­try and our re­spon­si­bil­i­ty.”