Record of largest-ever Nazi art hoard made public for first time

May 29th, 2014

And this week it has made the information from those catalogues freely available on the Internet – the first time any German art dealer has publicly released its records from the Nazi era.

Their publication is the initiative of Katrin Stoll, who took over the auction house in 2008, and has no connection to Mr Weinmüller.

“I feel very fortunate to have this difficult task,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

Names and images of artworks that were sold can be freely browsed on lostart.de, the German government website for recovering looted art. The website does not list who bought the artworks, but anyone with a serious claim to legal ownership can apply for that information.

The website does list where Mr Weinmüller obtained the artworks, and the entry “seizure by the Gestapo” frequently crops up. Where some dealers traded in art sold at knock-down prices by Jewish owners fleeing the Nazis, Mr Weinmüller was dealing directly in looted art.

Despite his significance, Mr Weinmüller has remained a shadowy figure. For years no one even knew what he looked like, until a photo emerged a few months ago of a bespectacled, unobtrusive man at an auction.

He successfully lied to the “Monuments Men” about his role during the war, and hid his connections to the Nazi high command. In fact he had risen to wealth and prominence by his loyalty to the party, and counted Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, amongst his clients.

A previously small-time dealer, he chaired a pro-Nazi trade organisation and took over the Munich arts scene as Jewish dealers were forced out.

Despite investigating him as a high priority, the “Monuments Men” were unable to prove anything against him, or prevent him from reopening his auction house. He held a further 35 auctions before his death in 1958.

After his death the Weinmüller auction house, as it was then known, was sold to Ms Stoll’s father, Rudolf Neumeister, who changed its name.

Experts say the real test of the new initiative will come when legal owners come forward to claim looted artworks. Some of the details of the buyers in the auction house’s records are sketchy, and list no more than a common surname. But others may be traceable, and artworks long given up as lost may finally be found again.


World War Two

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