Acquisitions made by the Deutsches Ledermuseum Offenbach in 1933–1945
- Dr. Inez Florschütz
Telephone: +49 (0) 69 829 798 11/0
- March 2011 to August 2012
- September 2012 to February 2014
The Deutsches Ledermuseum (German Leather Museum, DLM) was founded in 1917 by Hugo Eberhardt (1874–1959), who was its director in a voluntary capacity for many years. Originally designed as a collection of teaching materials for training purposes at the Institute of Technical Education (today: the University of Art and Design) in Offenbach am Main, the museum was developed by the architect with the help of art patrons, many of them Jewish. The founding of the museum was supported by the state of Hesse and the city of Offenbach, as well as the leather industry based in the local area. The aim was to create a collection illustrating “leather extraction and leather processing from all ages and by all peoples” which was to be accessible in a permanent exhibition. During the Nazi era, the institution moved to the traditional Old Warehouse, where the museum is still located today. Renovation and extension works were financed by donations—the (leather) certificate for the opening ceremony in 1938 names the Führer and Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler as an important patron, alongside the Reich Governor of Hesse and Gauleiter Jakob Sprenger.
The inventory book listed 518 vendors and donors during the Nazi era. Behind each of these names there could have been a suspicious acquisition from a private citizen or the art market, or a problematic donation. The objects acquired in private sales or at auctions came from the region and from the nationally renowned art market. Altogether, the number of objects totaled just under 4,500 up to 1933 and had more than doubled by 1945. Some 4,447 new acquisitions (1) were the starting point for provenance research at the DLM. The following figures can be reported to date: Of 2,102 clarified objects, 2,093 can be classified as lawful acquisitions while nine must be considered suspicious. A further 1,666 acquisitions come from the art market and are therefore under general suspicion; it was not possible to fully clarify the origin of the remaining 679 objects without gaps. Without an object database, inventory numbers and (vendor) names cannot be interlinked at the touch of a PC button. In terms of provenance research, this means constantly having to resort to the inventory books and the (fortunately available) archive containing correspondence since the founding of the DLM in 1917 up to 1945.
A guild cup from 1793, auctioned in 1941 at Hahn auction house in Frankfurt, is the only object to be assessed as suspicious to date and has been labeled as such in the permanent exhibition. This research case can be looked up on the DLM website and is a component of the museum tour on detective work with a serious background, which raises visitors’ awareness of provenance research. Continuous public relations work helps to create further transparency, while one presentation on provenance research at the Deutsches Ledermuseum has been delivered to experts to date.
1 Specifically, there were 5,009 inventoried objects in the Nazi era, but 562 are no longer in the DLM due to restitution, wartime loss, exchange, sale and removal.