Munich Museums Return 9 Nazi-Looted Artworks

Munich Returns Nazi-Looted Artworks

3 Museums in Munich returned 9 Nazi-Looted Artworks to the heirs of a couple victimized by the Gestapo. During the second great war, Jewish art collectors Julius and Semaya Franziska Davidsohn became victims of Nazi art theft. The couple falling prey to the Gestapo in the fall of 1938 in Munich. Arresting the childless couple and moving them to a concentration camp. Seizing their possessions as apart of the process. However, Munich returned 9 artworks to the Davidsohns’ heirs as they gathered in the southern German city. Three of Munich’s state museum were in charge of the paintings, casts, and engravings. Until recently new research revealed the artworks’ dark history.

Munich Returns Artwork
Descendants of a Jewish couple were reunited with nine works of art.

Continuous research shed light on the tainted provenances of the works. The research revealed the theft of each painting from the Davidsohns’ apartment in Munich. Then their removal to one of the National Socialists’ collecting points in Munich’s Königsplatz. Five of the paintings date from the 16th to early 20th centuries. Three 19th-century color engravings and an intricate wooden panel with ivory reliefs stayed there until the end of the war. Consequently, In 1955, each work found its way into the Bavarian State Painting Collections. And also the Bavarian National Museum, and the State Graphics Collection.

The Surviving Art

The research team tracked the Davidsohns’ heirs to London, Zimbabwe, and Tel Aviv. Provence research has increased in Munich in recent years. Representing the three museums, Bernhard Maaz, the director of the Bavarian State Painting Collection, described the research process as “long and difficult. However, he pointed out that its outcome showed how provenance research methods and tools have become “mature.”

Munich Return Artworks: Part of collection stolen from Davidsohn's
Part of the collection stolen from the Davidsohn’s

The raid resulting in the deportation of the Davidsohns to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Consequently, the death of Julius Davidsohn on August 1942 and Semaya on April 1943 left very little leeway for the artworks. Unfortunately, “Because of the Holocaust, no children were found. Raising the question of who was entitled to inherit the works,” said the Bavarian arts minister Bernd Sibler.  He said there were “difficult legal disputes” in the process. Admitting, that the restitution of artworks looted during World War II held in public collections has only recently been seen more seriously in the past two decades.

“Provenance research is more than just a duty of our museums. It is our ethical duty, to deal with the provenance of museum inventories thoroughly, profoundly, and conscientiously, and to make it transparent,” Sibler said in a statement. “Past events cannot be undone. However, we can send a visible sign for our deep and serious interest to process the inhuman crimes of National Socialism.”

Above all, “It is very illuminating for the community of heirs to find out about the fate of the former Davidsohn family. And to be able to commemorate them,” said a spokeswoman for the heirs.

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