Electronic evaluation of the files of the Vermoegensverwertungsstelle des Oberfinanzpraesidenten Berlin-Brandenburg (1933 to 1945) to assign art possessions to their former owners and locate Nazi looted art - Scientific indexing of a mass source to be digitized in the Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv in Potsdam - pilot project
- Dr. Irena Strelow
Telephone: +49 (0) 331 5674 200
- September 2020 to August 2022
The Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv in Potsdam holds the stock of records from Oberfinanzpraesident Berlin-Brandenburg, which are assigned to the victims of National Socialist persecution by name, and which include around 42,000 records of the Vermoegensverwertungsstelle (Asset Exploitation Office). This financial authority was set up at the end of 1941, when the mass deportations of Jews began. In addition to the records of the deportees of the administrative district with their last declarations of assets, the stock also includes the acts on the exploitation of confiscated property of emigrants. These had been taken over by their predecessor authority, the Ausbuergerungsabteilung (Expatriation Department) of the Berlin tax authority Finanzamt Moabit-West. The enormous significance of the files to be examined results from the nationwide jurisdiction of the Moabit-West tax office with regard to the confiscation of Jewish property since August 1933. Numerous documents in the records are related to the confiscation and exploitation of looted art and cultural assets from former Jewish property.
The project is intended to supplement the current state of research with far-reaching insights into the systematic theft of art and cultural assets by financial authorities. The focus is on the art possessions assigned to the former Jewish owners and their exploitation for the benefit of the state finances. Auctioning was the method preferred by the Nazi state to exploit the art and cultural property confiscated in the so-called Alt-Reich. Essential for the project are those buyers who refer to the current locations of cultural property confiscated by Nazi persecution.
The files of the Vermoegensverwertungsstelle are to be evaluated electronically by means of a case search using a document management system and OCR recognition in order to identify public institutions in particular as profiteers of Nazi art theft. Before being evaluated electronically, around 2 million pages must be prepared for conservation and restoration purposes and digitized by scanning to protect the documents. Quality control is central to this process. The project is based on an interdisciplinary cooperation of the fields of inventory cataloguing, restoration, digitization, information processing and provenance research.
The results of provenance research are to be passed on to the legal successors of the victims of National Socialist persecution - as far as known - and to public institutions and museums which, according to the records, have acquired art objects from former Jewish property. In compliance with data protection regulations, the results will be published at the end and the collected data will be made available for subsequent scientific use.
The project is funded with a total of 3.6 million Euros by the Bundesministerium der Finanzen (BMF), die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (BKM), das Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur des Landes Brandenburg (MWFK) und das Deutsche Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (DZK).