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