The relocation history of the Hans Sachs poster collection

Funding area:
Nazi-looted cultural property
Funding recipient:
Deutsches Historisches Museum
Federal state:
Contact person:
Dr. Brigitte Reineke

PositionLeitung Zentrale Dokumentation und Beauftragte für Provenienzforschung

Tel.+49 (0) 30 203 04 406

Dr. Heike Krokowski

PositionWissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin für Provenienzforschung

Tel.+49 (0) 30 203 04 334

Type of project:
short-term project

The Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) holds a poster collection containing approx. 80,000 pieces. Until fall 2012, this included parts of the poster collection that formerly belonged to Dr. Hans Sachs. According to information from Hans Sachs, the Sachs Collection comprised 12,500 posters when it was confiscated by the Nazis in 1938.

Knowledge about where the collection went after it was confiscated was rudimentary and based on speculation. At the time the restitution claim was made by the heirs of Sachs in 2005, it was known only that a large bundle of posters had been found in 1955 in the Museum für Deutsche Geschichte in East Berlin, established in 1952. Based on clear evidence, the curator in charge recognized these posters as originating from the collection of Dr. Hans Sachs.

In 1992, the curators responsible for the poster collection at that time estimated in an exhibition catalog that the number of posters from the Sachs Collection in the DHM holdings amounted to approx. 8,000 pieces. The opposing party, which was pressing for the restitution of the Sachs Collection, based their claim on these approx. 8,000 posters. However, in 2005, the object database to which the holdings had been continuously added since 1993 indicated not even half this number.

To clarify the discrepancy between the number of posters being claimed and the number actually shown in the DHM collection, an inventory was taken focusing on the Sachs Collection. To identify the provenance of the items, we relied on evidence provided by the collector himself, such as monogram stamps and name labels. All the posters in the local holdings which fell into the Hans Sachs collection period were investigated, checked for this evidence and inventoried electronically.

Through the funded project, it was possible to identify the economic background to the confiscation and the group of people involved in it. The results of this research correspond with those on the relocation history, which provide an explanation that at the end of the inventory only 4,344 posters could be verified as being from the Sachs Collection. The DHM returned these posters to the heirs in fall 2012.

(c) Deutsches Historisches Museum