Cultural Assets and Looted Artwork Seized through Nazi Persecution in the Library of the New Synagogue Foundation – Investigation of Extensive Archived Materials and Collections in the Library of the New Synagogue – Centrum Judaicum Foundation
- February 2016 to January 2017
Initial questions and project objectives
The library stocks of the Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum (CJ) currently contain around 8,500 volumes of titles that were published before 1945. More than 2,500 works are in Hebrew and Yiddish. This historic stock is comprised of extensive donations and transfers from the Berliner Stadtbibliothek (now the Berliner Zentral- und Landesbibliothek), the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin SPK, private donors of estates and members of the public from Germany and abroad. Around 4,500 volumes are suspected of being Nazi-confiscated property because of various markings found in the books. The provenance markings include signatures, labels, autographs, stamps, dedications and handwritten (genealogical) notes, sometimes in Hebrew or Yiddish. These books will be entered into a shared database (referred to as “DB” below) so they can be searched by the public, and will also be returned to the rightful owners or their heirs.
The project in numbers
|700 copies||100 %||Total number of objects examined|
|100 copies ||32 %||The provenance for the period 1933–1945 can be reconstructed and is not suspicious. It can be proven that the items are not Nazi-confiscated property and further investigation is not required.|
|70 copies||10 %||The provenance is not entirely clear for the period 1933–1945. There are gaps in provenance, or it cannot be established with certainty. The origin must be researched further.|
|220 copies||24 %||The provenance for the period 1933–1945 is questionable as there are indications that the item was seized through Nazi persecution. There is an urgent need for further research into the origin of the item.|
|310 copies||44 %||The provenance is clearly suspicious for the period 1933–1945. In addition to searching for living heirs who are entitled to the item, a report must be entered in the Lost Art Database.|
List of persons and institutions that are historically relevant to the project
• Berliner Stadtbibliothek
• Staatsbibliothek Berlin—Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation
• Jewish Community of Berlin
• University of Rostock
• Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
• The Great Synagogue, Elizabeth Street, Sydney
• Jüdisch-Theologisches Seminar Fraenckel’scher Stiftung, Wroclaw
• Private individuals in Israel and the USA
On March 10, 2016, the Looted Cultural Assets cooperative provenance initiative based at the Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum was officially announced in a public press release. Various media events were scheduled to coincide with this announcement: Deutschlandradio Kultur (March 10, 2016), rbb Kulturradio (March 10, 2016), Campus Leben (March 10, 2016), Jüdische Allgemeine (March 11, 2016), Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten (March 16, 2016), Tagesspiegel (March 14, 2016), TAZ (March 11, 2016).
At the end of 2016, the cooperative provenance initiative gained two more partners, both of whom have been using the shared database as a documentation platform since January 2017: the Institute for the History of the German Jews (Institut für die Geschichte der deutschen Juden, IGdJ) in Hamburg and the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe (Baden State Library, Karlsruhe). The website for the cooperative initiative is currently being updated.
The project also has its own page on the CJ Homepage. The CJ will also contribute to the first publication in the series published by the German Lost Art Foundation.