Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Determining the location of objects from the art collection of Felix and Marie Busch (née Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) which was confiscated by the Gestapo, and in particular their location in public institutions. Identifying the buyers of objects from the collection in the forced public auction at the Harms auction house in November 1940, particularly public institutions. A reconstruction using examples.

funding area Nazi confiscated art Grant recipient Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum Potsdam State Brandenburg Website http://www.mmz-potsdam.de/ Lost Art-Report to the Found-Object Reports of the institution Contact person
  • Dr. Anna-Dorothea Ludewig
    Telephone: +49 (0) 331 28094-0
Project type Short-term project to reconstruct the collection Funding duration
  1. May 2016 to September 2016

Description

In a bundle of items designated for removal, the art collection of Felix and Marie Busch (née Mendelssohn-Bartholdy), which had been confiscated and downgraded to “household goods”, was sold in November 1940 on behalf of the Moabit West tax office through the auctioneer Gerhard Harms. The short-term project investigated the composition, size and importance of the art collection, as well as the process of its so-called utilization by the Nazi authorities and possible present-day location.

Of 635 lot numbers that came to Harms for auction, approx. 355 related to the collection. These lots were mostly acquired by dealers registered with the Reichskammer der bildenden Künste (Reich Chamber of Fine Arts). Of these dealers, 27 selected individuals were examined in more detail within the research project. In addition to the persons who were almost all registered with the Reich Chamber of Culture, only a few unregistered individuals were present at the auction, e.g. the so-called asset manager Friedrich Stegmann, who had been actively involved in liquidating the assets of Felix and Marie Busch, as well as two employees of the Moabit West tax office and an expert advisor of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

According to the present state of research, 40 of the objects not registered with Harms, primarily furniture and carpets, were probably “utilized” through the auctioneer Hans W. Lange.

For approx. 15 further art objects not registered with Harms, it can be assumed that they ended up in the Staatliche Museen. According to the current state of research, eight of these were acquired by the Nationalgalerie, of which only two objects have been restituted, in 2005.

Well-known art dealers were present at the Harms auction, including Willi Matthies, China-Bohlken and Greiner & Zietz, who all regularly consigned objects to museums during the Nazi era. It must therefore be considered that objects also made their way into the collections of the museums via these individuals.

Due to the short-term nature of the project, it was only possible to undertake brief investigations in the possible present-day locations of selected objects, which have not yielded any results to date. A longer term research project would be required in order to carry out further reconstruction of the “utilization procedures”, possibly by Hans W. Lange, and a systematic investigation appropriate to the size of the collection, particularly into the whereabouts of the valuable graphics collection.

© Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum Potsdam, December 2016