Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice
by Melissa Muller and Monika Tatzkow
forward by Ronald S. Lauder
Beginning in 1933, Jewish collectors were under extraordinary pressure from German officials to surrender their treasures - paintings, manuscripts, musical instruments, and all manner of objets d'art. Collectors reluctantly agreed to one-sided sales of masterpieces at ludicrously low prices in exchange for a precious exit permit for themselves or a member of their family. Here, in the result of years of meticulous archival research, authors Melissa Müller and Monika Tatzkow trace the dispersal of these great collections and follow the fates of the collectors, those who were lucky enough to secure a visa to safe country as well as the many who died in Auschwitz or other camps. Inevitably, their collections were confiscated by high-ranking German officials, sold by Nazi party member art dealers, or seized for state collections. Following the war Allied officials made little effort to retrieve these lost paintings, concentrating their resources on the return of works of art removed from museums, churches, and palaces. But the heirs of the collectors puprsued the return of their patrimony, and over the past twenty years have won a number of key court decisions in Europe and the United States leading to the restitution of some of the lost art. For every victory, such as the triumphant return to the Bloch-Bauer heirs of their family's confiscated Klimts, there are also defeats and obstinate stonewalling by museums and collectors, who insist that the art in their collections was legally acquired in good faith.