Provenance research on the looted property of Jewish emigrants is extended to Hamburg
The research work of the German Maritime Museum (DSM) / Leibniz Institute for Maritime History on the whereabouts of Nazi looted goods is being expanded considerably and is being supported by the German Centre for Cultural Heritage Losses with around 200,000 euros. The radius of the investigations is now extended to Hamburg. Cooperation partners are the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the Museum of Arts and Crafts, the Altonaer Museum, the museum at the Rothenbaum as well as the State Archive and the Hamburg State Library.
For people persecuted as Jews because of Nazi ideology, emigration from the Deutsche Reich after 1933 was often the only way to save their own lives and those of their families. Detailed packing lists had to be submitted to the Gestapo and high taxes had to be paid. The emigration goods – stowed in lifts and crates – left Germany on cargo ships, mostly via the ports of Hamburg and Bremen. The transported goods were brought to the port by forwarding agents and stored there until they were shipped.
When the war began in September 1939, civilian shipping was largely discontinued. Freight that had not yet been loaded remained in the warehouses, and ships that had already sailed were ordered back. From the spring of 1940 the Gestapo confiscated the resettlement goods in order to „exploit“ their contents and to allow the proceeds to go to the Deutsche Reich. The emigrants‘ private possessions were publicly auctioned off to the highest bidder on behalf of the Oberfinanzdirektion. The buyers were not only private individuals, but also traders, museums and libraries.
The database on emigration goods from Bremen, which had already been created in the previous project, will now be expanded with important information on the events in Hamburg and will continue to be supported by the two-member team of the DSM with its painstakingly acquired expertise. In future, the database should enable the cooperation partners in Hamburg and parts of the public to access information on objects that were confiscated and auctioned off during the Nazi era.
„Freight forwarders, port companies, customs authorities, the Gestapo, trustees and bailiffs have well documented the goods and their routes, so that we can trace the detours by which an object reached a new owner,“ says project manager Dr. Kathrin Kleibl, „In some cases, objects were sold through middlemen before being offered to a museum. Certain names keep popping up in the process. The aim of the project is to trace in detail the path of the relocated property from the time it left the owner’s house to the new owner, in order to provide a basis for the tracing and restitution of the lost objects and works of art.
„The LIFTProv project carries out basic research and an overdue processing of existing documents in the archives“, says Kleibl, „In addition to the will to make amends and the intended return of objects to the heirs, the processes and involved parties will be historically reordered“.
Contact for scientific information:
Dr. Kathrin Kleibl