Provenance research on Nazi looted property at the Museum am Rothenbaum: Collections acquired between 1933 and 1952

Funding area:
Nazi-looted cultural property
Funding recipient:
Museum am Rothenbaum - Kulturen und Künste der Welt
Federal state:
Contact person:
Jana C. Reimer


Tel.+49 (0)40/428 879–551

Julianne de Sousa


Tel.+49 (0)40/428 879–586

Type of project:
long-term project

The project aims to provide a systematic examination and review of objects acquired between 1933 and 1945, as well as acquisitions from the post-war period up to 1952.

As the collection department of the museum is organized according to global regions, the objects and collections relevant to the project are located in distinct collection areas within the museum, so the project can be classified as a cross-collection project.

The initial phase of the project involves a systematic and structured documentation of the previous owners and sellers during the period under investigation as well as the circumstances of acquisition, based on the registered incoming objects. The MARKK maintains a digital, database-based collection documentation. Currently the database records a total of 1,418 project-relevant convolutes of varying numbers of objects for the period from February 1933 up to and including 1952. The holdings that were thoroughly examined in the context of the first provenance research project on Nazi-looted objects at the MARKK from 2021 to 2023, as well as the collections of the prehistory and prehistoric Department and the Anthropology Department, which have since been transferred to other museums, and so-called workshop productions, are not included. In the 1970s, the prehistory and prehistoric department was transferred to the Helms Museum in Hamburg, while the anthropology department was largely transferred to the University of Göttingen, both with extensive documentation. The term workshop fabrications refer to models and object replicas from the museums own workshop.

The Data on the previous owners or sellers of objects in connection with the respective collections is structured as follows to enable analysis and verification of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution: Incoming collections from private individuals, holdings received from public organisations and institutions as well as from associations between 1933 and 1945 and object trade.

At the time of the project application, it has already been possible to define corresponding collection clusters for a more in-depth investigation. These include items received from private individuals who are known to have been persecuted by the National Socialists, as well as ethnographic dealers, such as the family of the Hamburg ethnographic dealer Julius Konietzko (1886-1952) and their circle. The majority of the items to be assigned here originate from the Konietzko trade and collections, but overall, the ethnographic and art trade seems to have played a rather subordinate role in the acquisition of objects by the Museum für Völkerkunde between 1933 and 1952.

As a result of the first Nazi-looted property project, which was completed in 2023, findings have emerged regarding the access status "on loan" that necessitate an extended focus on the holdings recorded accordingly: On the one hand, individuals were no longer in a position to ever reclaim their holdings from the museum due to persecution; on the other hand, it is assumed that individual object holdings may have been handed over to the museum for safekeeping or deposited as loans by persecuted persons. Individual objects may also have remained in the museum when collections were returned.

To be reviewed as well are items that were recorded as "old stock" or with unclear information. "Old stock" refers to objects and groups of objects that entered the collections at an unspecified earlier date, but can no longer be clearly assigned or have changed their status. This means checking the identity based on the now expanded and, above all, digitally accessible collection catalogue. An ambiguous acquisition status involves checking and comparing relevant catalogues and documents, but it remains to be seen whether an investigation will clarify the actual status.

The research on all holdings selected includes clarifying their acquisition and ownership status as well as investigating the collection's history. For individual objects, the documentation and research of specific provenance features such as collection and auction numbers, hallmarks, etc. will be documented and researched as appropriate.

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