Restitutions and Case News:

7 December 2016: German Advisory Commission issues recommendation in case of violin claimed by the heirs of Felix Hildesheimer, its first case involving a private owner

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The 1706 Guarneri violin was acquired by the music dealer Felix Hildesheimer of Speyer in January 1938. His business had been boycotted since 1933 and in 1937 he was forced by the Nazis to sell it and give up his house. In August 1939 he committed suicide and in 1940 his wife was deported and her property taken by the Gestapo. Their two daughters were able to flee and reach the USA and Australia respectively.

The violin reappeared in 1974 when it was purchased in good faith from the Cologne violin maker Ludwig Höfer by violinist Sophie Hagemann. After her death in 2010, it became the property of the Franz Hofmann and Sophie Hagemann Foundation which undertook provenance research and publicly sought out both further information on provenance and the Hildesheimer family.

The Foundation could not clarify the history with certainty and doubted the claim, but both parties sought an amicable and equitable resolution.

The Advisory Commission found it very plausible that the violin had been lost due to persecution.

The Foundation stated it would like to have the violin repaired and be lent to the best students of the Nuremberg Academy of Music. These musicians would be required to give concerts in Speyer with a suitable programme of music to commemorate the history of the Hildesheimer family and their musical activities.

Given this proposal, the Advisory Commission recommended that a fair solution would be that the violin, whose market value is ca. €150,000 with repair costs of ca. €50,000 remain in the Foundation and the Foundation pay €100,000 to the heirs.

To read the recommendation, the first by the Commission involving a private owner, click here for the German text and here for the English.

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