The "Acquisitions and Reserves from Jewish property 1938-1955" association is run by employees of the Universalmuseum Joanneum. At the beginning of April 1998 they were given the task of examining and analysing records from the war and post-war period in relation to the questionable acquisition of objects in the collection. Its objective is to establish whether there are today still objects in the museum that do not rightfully belong there, and to return these to the rightful owners or their heirs.
At the end of 1999, the results of this research could be presented to the government of the Province of Styria in a full report of around 400 pages. Investigations had revealed that essentially three of the Universalmuseum Joanneum collections were affected:
the historico-cultural collection, the Neue Galerie Graz and the Alte Galerie. The following archives were contacted: the archive of the Bundesdenkmalamt (Austrian Federal Office for the Care of Monuments) in Vienna, the archive of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, the Steiermärkisches Landesarchiv in Graz and departmental archives. Both correlations and contradictions to the archive records were discovered from the old and new inventory books. The report includes such famous names as the Rothschild, Bondy, Gutmann and Pollak collections, among others. It deals with acquisitions made via the Vugesta, the Gestapo, the Dorotheum and various other auction houses as well as through trustees and galleries.
To give a more complete background to today's situation, it should be mentioned that some restitutions were made in the post-war period: over 95% of all the artworks confiscated from Jewish collections and passed on to the Joanneum during the Nazi era were returned by the end of the 1950s. A few pieces, however, remained in the collections, partly in the capacity of what is known as "extorted donations", partly because the identity of the previous owners was not known or because no applications for restitution were made.
On March 14th, 2000 a regional constitutional law based on the research report of the Styrian regional parliament was passed to govern the return of questionable acquisitions from Jewish ownership. Subsequently, with the help of the Jewish Community in Vienna, several heirs were traced and their rightful property was returned: until now (April 2008) these are 26 objects to eleven legal heirs.
In order that we can push ahead with the work, the association is appealing to a wider public via the internet in the hope of obtaining further information about the questionable objects and their previous owners or current entitled claimants.
We are presenting the objects which, according to what we have discovered to date, were passed on to the museum under circumstances that mean they should be considered for restitution according to the law mentioned above, and which so far could not be clearly linked to an owner or whose heirs were not known to us:
Following a photo and a technical description, we first give the details discovered according to the research report, and then, secondly, we request the answers to various questions. We can be contacted directly via the email addresses given alongside each object. The representatives for each collection are as follows: Dr. Karin Leitner-Ruhe for the Alte Galerie and Dr. Gudrun Danzer for the Neue Galerie Graz. To access the objects, simply click on the relevant department at the left side of the page.