Restitution Report 2000/2001: Third Report from the Federal Minister for Education, Science and Culture to the National Council regarding the Restitution of Works of Art from Austrian Federal Museums and Collections (Restitutionsbericht 2000/2001: Bericht der Bundesministerin für Unterricht und kulturelle Angelegenheiten an den Nationalrat über die Rückgabe von Kunstgegenständen aus den Österreichischen Bundesmuseen und Sammlungen)
The third report is available here and on the website of the Commission for Provenance Research.
According to the 1998 Federal State Act on the Return of Cultural Objects from Austrian Federal Museums and Collections, the Federal Minister for Education, Science and Culture is required to issue a yearly report to inform the National Council (i.e. Lower Chamber of the Austrian Parliament) on the restitution of works of art. The First Restitution Report was published on 27 October 1999 and covers restitutions made between 9 December 1998 and 18 August 1999. The second Report covers restitutions between 27 October 1999 and 28 November 2000, and the third one covers restitutions made between 29 November 2000 and 1 October 2001.
The reports are effectively an annual review of the activities of the Commission for Provenance Research. The Commission was created in March 1998 by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (formerly the Federal Ministry for Instruction and Cultural Affairs) The draft for the 1998 Federal State Act was prepared during the first months of the Commission and drew on this initial research. The Commission for Provenance Research is under the direction of Professor Dr. Ernst Bacher and its central office is located at the Federal Office of Historical Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt), where the greatest number of archival materials on art looting and restitution in Austria are located. Members of the Commission's staff work in the Federal Museums and Collections and in the National Library of Austria. If restitution cases arise from their research, dossiers are submitted to an Advisory Council created by the 1998 Federal State Act on the Return of Cultural Objects. The Advisory Council was constituted on 9 December 1998 and is based at the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture. It examines the research dossiers and forwards recommendations on restitutions to the Federal Ministers for Defence; Economy and Labour, and Education, Science and Culture, who act on them.
Because the 1998 Federal State Act is restricted to Federal Museums and Collections, the Reports only cover restitutions from the following institutions: the Albertina (Graphic Arts); the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum); the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art Historical Museum, which also includes the Museum of Anthropology (Museum für Völkerkunde) and the Theatre Museum); the Museum of Applied Arts (Museum für Angewandte Kunst or MAK), the Museum of Modern Art-Ludwig Foundation Vienna (Museum Moderner Kunst-Stiftung Ludwig Wien); the Museum of Natural History (Naturhistorisches Museum); the Belvedere (Österreichische Galerie Belvedere), the Austrian Museum of Folk Art and Folk Life (Österreichisches Museum für Volkskunde), the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), the Federal Museum of Pathology and Anatomy (Pathologisch-anatomisches Museum) and the Technical Museum (Technisches Museum) and the Federal Furniture Collection. So far, several Austrian regions (Bundesländer) have followed suit and have established Restitution Commissions which issue their own restitution reports. The municipality of Vienna is a good example.
The Federal Restitution Reports can also be downloaded from the website of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture (Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur). The reports up to 2000/2001 are only available in German. Subsequent reports are available in German and English.
Summary of Sections of the Report:
The third in the Restitution Report in the series covers restitutions made between 29 November 2000 and 1 October 2001. It is the most detailed report to date and reviews the work of the Commission and the development of its role since its creation.
The first part of the review concerns the first and main focus of the Commission's provenance research, the systematic research into all art and cultural objects acquired from 1938 onwards. According to the Report, the Belvedere, the Albertina Graphic Arts Collection, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Museum for Applied Arts are the museums most represented in the dossiers submitted to the Council so far. The majority of cases, however, involve more than one museum or collection and the dossiers combine the results of the provenance research of different institutions. The Report emphasises that although the enormous investment of effort in provenance research is not reflected in the number of restitution cases that result from it, such a systematic approach is necessary to fulfil the Commission's mandate adequately.
Overview of provenance research at Federal Museums and Collections provided by the Report
At the Belvedere (Österreichische Galerie Belvedere), 6,170 acquisitions since 1938 need to be examined, including works taken over from other museums. In addition to the museum's archives and the archival resources at the Federal Office of Historical Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt), the following archival sources were also consulted: The Austrian State Archives; the Vienna Municipal and Regional Archives; the Archives of the Kunsthistorisches Museum; the Archives of the Regional Finance Office (Finanzlandesdirektion); the Documentation Archives of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW); the Linz Municipal Archives; the Upper Austria Regional Archives; the Archives of the Galerie Welz in Salzburg, the Salzburg Regional Archives, the Archives of the Augsburg Municipal Collections of Art; various archives in Berlin; the Bundesarchiv Koblenz, the Bavarian State Archives, the Archives of the Basel Museum of Art; the Archives of the Kunsthaus Zürich and the State Archives in Prague. The restitution cases processed so far have involved very valuable works from the collection, such as key works by Gustav Klimt.
More than 5,000 drawings and 3,750 prints were checked at the Albertina Collection of Graphic Arts for the 1938-1945 period and the postwar years up until about 1960. Entered in a special database, about 1,000 of these works were investigated more thoroughly. This involved elaborate research in many archives both in Austria and abroad.
From a total of 19,651 acquisitions by the Kunsthistorisches Museum between 1938 and 1945, 7,188 were returned to the owners or their heirs after 1945. Current provenance research at the museum has identified a further 772 questionable objects, (652 of which are from two coin collections). Some of them have already been returned. An unpublished 661- page report ("Die Veränderungen im Inventarbestand des Kunsthistorischen Museums während der Nazizeit und den Jahren bis zum Staatsvertrag 1955 - eine Sachverhaltsdarstellung" - The Changes in the Inventoried Collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum during the Nazi Period and in the Years up until the State Treaty 1955: A Presentation of the Facts) documents the museum's role in acquisition processes during the Nazi period and in postwar restitution efforts. It also contains a selection of case studies as well as a comprehensive catalogue of the acquisitions investigated.
The Museum of Applied Arts is very present in the restitution cases dealt with by the Commission so far. This is the result of the selective examination of larger connected collections. The checking of acquisitions between 1938 and 1945 by individual inventory numbers presents many difficulties in this museum because of the exceptionally large number of object categories. As well as 2,245 main inventory numbers (which can each refer to much more than one object), c. 31,000 archival records are to be examined. The years 1938-41 have been completed. Research for the years up until 1945 and the postwar years (the cut off point agreed so far is 1965) is still underway (according to the report, the research was due to be completed in 2002).
Since 1999 a detailed, illustrated Final Report has been available for the collection of the Federal Furniture Depot. In addition to an examination of the inventories, the Report also analyses all related historical materials. The restitution cases resulting from this Report have been submitted to the Advisory Council and have been dealt with.
The provenance research at the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) has been completed and the restitution cases resulting from it have been dealt with. According to the Report, only an 'insignificant' remainder stock of 'abandoned' property remains.
Between 1938-1955 the Museum of Anthropology (Museum für Völkerkunde) acquired 246 collections, each consisting of numerous items. Because of this large number of acquisitions and the museum’s incomplete records, the systematic checking of provenances in the collections, the library, and the photo archives, presented a great challenge. The Report notes however, that the work is nearing completion.
Between 1938 and 1945 the Museum of Natural History (Naturhistorisches Museum) was only marginally, if at all, involved in the distribution of expropriated art objects. The fact that the individual museum departments organise acquisitions independently of each other confronts current provenance research with a certain complexity. Unfortunately, the museum also has a very patchy stock of records. Evidence of confiscated collections at the museum brought to light by research still requires additional documentation and proof.
Provenance research at the Museum of Modern Art/ Ludwig Foundation Vienna (Museum Moderner Kunst/ Stiftung Ludwig Wien) was completed in 1998. A final report is available. Because the majority of the works in the museum date from the post-war period, only the provenance of 232 works was researched. Although these included some unclear or insufficiently documented provenances, an appraisal of the documentation did not indicate any relevance to the 1998 Federal State Act or justify further research.
Provenance research at the Technical Museum (Technisches Museum) is completed; the 1938-45 archival materials are documented, as are those of the postwar period up until 1970. A database will facilitate the processing of requests in the future. Several restitution cases have already been dealt with.
The restitution cases resulting from the provenance research undertaken at the Austrian Theatre Museum (Österreichisches Theatermuseum) to date have been dealt with or are currently being processed.
The Ministry has received a detailed progress report on research undertaken so far on acquisitions at the National Library of Austria (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) in 1938-45, and restitutions after 1945. The systematic provenance research at the National Library was also instrumental in much of the research and many of the restitution cases of the other Federal Institutions.
Because there is no relation between the collection of the Museum of Pathology and Anatomy (Pathologisch-Anatomisches Bundesmuseum) and the Federal State Act, the museum has presented the results of its provenance research directly to the Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture.
The project to document the restitution materials in the Archives of the Federal Office of Historical Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt), which concern 200,000 documents in 160 boxes, has opened up to 60 % of the files on individual persons relating to surnames from A-P (c. 20.000 pages) so far. The detailed inventory of restitution materials currently contains 1,300 pages. Of the 19,000 export files (Ausfuhrakten) from 1938-45 which have been made accessible, 1,800 acts of exports (Ausfuhren) relevant to provenance research were entered into a PC database a special focus being placed on export embargos (Ausfuhrsperren) on significant works of art or decorative art items. 53,794 export justifications (Ausfuhrcausen) between 1946 and 1965 were also entered. 7,828 of these were documented separately.
General aspects of the preparation of dossiers for the Advisory Council:
If no information is available in the records, the Commission works closely with the Holocaust Victims Information and Support Center (HVISC) and on occasion the National Fund to trace and identify former owners or their heirs. When former owners or their heirs are known, the Commission includes them in its efforts to clarify the historical circumstances. This ensures that any documents or important historical materials they may have are considered. Once the Advisory Council's recommendations have been received, the search for legal heirs of the former owners can be very difficult and lengthy because those entitled are often grandchildren of the former owners and because the relevant legal processes have in most cases taken place abroad. The Report emphasises that success with the searches was first and foremost due to the assistance of the HVISC.
The Report's review of the development of the Commission's role continues with the remark that a second focus of the Commission's work emerged as a result of the international reaction to the 1998 Federal State Act on the Return of Cultural Objects. This additional role is the processing of queries and requests of former owners or their heirs from all over the world concerning art objects. At the time the report was written, 270 such queries or requests had been or were still being processed by the Commission. They involve very labour intensive searches in the archives of the Bundesdenkmalamt and Federal and regional museums and collections. The number of restitutions resulting from these requests is relatively small because those items of cultural property that did not enter museums but were put up for auction via the Dorotheum or the art market are virtually unrecoverable today. The report insists that it nevertheless seems important to assist these enquiries with archival data and to clarify at the same time that none of the art objects sought remain in the possession of the Republic of Austria.
The Report goes on to state that several Austrian regions (Bundesländer) have established their own offices for Provenance Research and have also begun to return material.
These offices also need to consult the archives of the Federal Office of Historical Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt) which requires close cooperation with the Commission for Provenance Research. Nazi art looting was organised and coordinated well beyond Austria's (historical and current) borders and therefore international cooperation is crucial to current provenance research. Restitution cases in Austrian Federal Museums have already required the consultation of a variety of archives outside of Austria. On the other hand, documentation relevant to restitution cases in other countries is located in the Archives of the Federal Office of Historical Monuments. The Commission is continuously involved in the international network of provenance research as projected by the Washington Principles and in cooperation with relevant international institutions such as the London based Commission for Looted Art in Europe. Museums all over the world undertake provenance research and their enquiries also lead them to archival material in Vienna and to the Commission.
The report then notes that the systematic examination of acquisitions is not yet complete and draws attention to acquisitions from the Dorotheum, writing that these are particularly riddled with unanswered questions for all museums and collections and require a thorough investigation as from 1938 this auction house was used by the Gestapo and the VUGESTA (active between 1940 and 1942) to sell cultural property. The report suggests that only the final report of the Historians' Commission will make more information available on this issue.
The VUGESTA was a private enterprise working closely with the Gestapo. It confiscated the property of Jewish emigrants from storage spaces and apartments and "aryanised" the apartments of those deported, selling goods through the Dorotheum (high quality goods and works of art) and open sales.
The Report says that although it was anticipated in 1998 that the research would focus on investigating acquisitions between 1938 and 45 with additional research on post-war years, it became apparent that a large amount of cultural property confiscated by the Nazis only entered the Federal Museums after the Second World War and often significantly after the 1960s which had been set as the provisional cut-off date. These are not exclusively objects acquired as 'gifts' in connection with the Prohibition of Export of Objects of Historical, Artistic or Cultural Value Law but also concerns recent purchases and acquisitions whose questionable origin was only brought to light through current provenance research. The processing of queries regarding art objects will remain a topical issue over the next few years and continues to require a central provenance research point. The registers and databases created in the museums and collections and in the Bundesdenkmalamt since 1998 on the subject of confiscated art and restitutions will facilitate the work in the future. But a contact person for requests will nevertheless have to be available in every museum and collection.
The Report draws attention to the fact that one task of the 1998 Federal State Act has been little considered so far. This is § 1 (3), which states that 'heirless' property is to be handed to the National Fund to be sold. Relevant results of provenance research do already exist, but have so far not been acted upon because it was assumed that restitution cases of living heirs of former owners should be dealt with as a priority. In the future however, the Commission will also prepare dossiers on these cases for the consideration of the Advisory Council (in accordance with international practice such objects would be published on the Internet).
The ultimate aim of the provenance research is the clarification of all purchases and acquisitions in the Federal museums and Collections between 1938 and 1945 and the post-war years in connection with unclear provenances or those suspected to be questionable. An end to the inspection and analysis of historical sources necessary for this task is currently not in sight. As in the Second Report, this Report notes that still most cases dealt with concern objects which became Federal property legally, but had previously been subject to a legal transaction during the Nazi Regime annulled by the Nullity Act of 15 May 1946. There have also been several cases of works of art and items of cultural property held back under the provisions of the Export Ban and which entered Austrian federal museums and collections as "gifts" or "donations". The Advisory Council has yet to come across a case corresponding to the last of the three main scenarios listed in the 1998 Federal State Act, i.e. 'abandoned' property which became Federal property.
The following persons were nominated as members and deputy members of the Advisory Council for the period 5 December 2000 - 4 December 2001: the chairperson was Dr. Rudolf Wran (Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture). The members were Dr. Peter Parenzan (Federal Ministry for Economy and Labour), Dr. Peter Zetter (Advocate General, Federal Ministry of Justice), Dr. Manfred Kremser (Vice-President, Procurator Fiscal), Prof. Dr. Artur Rosenauer (University of Vienna), Prof. Dr. Helmut Konrad (Karl-Franzens University, Graz), HR Prof. Dr. Manfred Rauchensteiner (Director, Museum of Military History). The deputy members are Oberrätin Mag. Dr. Verena Starlinger (Federal Ministry for Economy and Labour), Oberstaatsanwältin Dr. Sonja Bydlinski (Federal Ministry of Justice), Oberrat Dr. Gottfried Toman (Procurator Fiscal), Prof. Dr. Götz Pochat (Karl-Franzens University, Graz), Prof Dr. Ernst Bruckmüller (University of Vienna), Christoph Hatschek, M.A. (Museum of Military History).
The Advisory Council met on six occasions during the period covered by the Third Restitution Report to examine and discuss the documentation submitted by the Commission for Provenance Research. It then provided the Federal Minister of Instruction and Cultural Affairs with expert opinions on the restitution cases listed below. On the basis of this, the Federal Minister made use of his authorisation to transfer ownership in the cases listed below according to § 2 (1) of the 1998 Federal State Act on the Return of Cultural Objects by the cut-off date of 18 August 1999. The list below shows the collections from which objects were restituted in the period covered by the second restitution report and on occasion also names the Federal Collections which returned them. Full details of the restituted objects (artist/title or brief description (decorative arts/furniture), Federal Museum/Collection restituted from, inventory numbers) are provided in the German original of the Report.
Restitution Decisions (listed in the order given by the Report):
I. To the heirs of Claire and Gustav Kirstein
Albertina Graphic Arts Collection:
1 drawing by Käthe Kollwitz
II. To the heirs of Albert Pollak
Albertina Graphic Arts Collection:
1 watercolour by Moritz von Daffinger
III. To the heirs of Friedrich Spiegler
1 altar panel by the Master of the Veit Legend (Veitslegende)
IV. To the heirs of Julius Kien
Museum of Anthropology:
VII. To the heirs of Alexander Friedrich Rosenfeld
Austrian Theatre Museum:
19 photographs of the actress Adele Sandrock
VIII. To the heirs of Moriz und Otto Eisler
1 work by Anton Romako
National Library of Austria:
2 volumes of prints by Konrad Mautner
X. To the heirs of Ignatz Pick
Albertina Graphic Arts Collection:
2 works in total, i.e. 1 work each by Leopold Kupelwieser and Johann Michael Neder
XI. To the heirs of Bruno Jellinek
Albertina Graphic Arts Collection:
5 works in total, including 1 each of Richard Cosway, Eduard Stroehly, Johann Heinrich König and Jean-Pierre-Frédéric Barrois
Negative Recommendations (1998 - today)
Most cases submitted to the advisory council were forwarded to the Federal Minister with positive recommendations. In the period covered by this report, there was only one negative decision. On 23 January 2001 the Advisory Council did not recommend the return of two paintings by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller to the heirs of Gertrude von Felsövany. In 1939, an authorised person handed them to the Galerie Wolfrum for sale and they were acquired by the Belvedere. On 28 May 1952, the Regional Court in Vienna rejected a request for restitution from Gertrude von Felsövany. The Advisory Council was unable to give a recommendation at odds with a previous legal decision.
Below are other negative recommendations made by the Advisory Council since its inception:
Six paintings by Gustav Klimt now in the Belvedere to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer (28 June 1999). The Gallery claims its title to the work stems from before the Nazi regime, from the will of Adele Bloch Bauer who died in 1925.
Edvard Munch's painting Meereslandschaft mit Mond now in the Belvedere to the heirs of Alma Mahler-Werfel (28 June 1999). On 16 June 1963 the Higher Regional Court in Vienna rejected a restitution request by Alma Mahler-Werfel noting that the Gallery's acquisition of the work did not result from an act of confiscation but through a dealer authorised to sell the work.
Two Still Lifes from 1720 by an unknown Austrian painter Große Laute, Geige und Flöte and Kleine Laute und Geige to the heirs of Paul Wittgenstein. (18 August 2000). The works were never part of a restitution procedure, the prerequisite for it to be considered under § 1 (1) of the 1998 Federal Return Law. Because the works were loans, twice extended, they have always remained the property of the owner. Therefore, they do not fall under the 1998 Federal Act.
Watercolour by Moritz Daffinger Bildnis von A. Lieberman to the heirs of Lothar Körner (28 November 2000). In 1939 the work was exchanged for duplicates of works in the Albertina Graphic Arts Collection. In 1949 the owner did not respond to an offer by the Albertina to return the miniature in exchange for the return of the duplicates. This was interpreted by the Advisory Council to be a statement by the owner that the original transaction was to be considered permanent.Source
Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture (Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur)<http://www.bmukk.gv.at/kultur/bm/restber.xml>, accessed 6 July 2007
Robert Holzbauer, 'Einziehung volks- und staatsfeindlichen Vermögens im Lande Österreich". Die "VUGESTA" - die "Verwertungsstelle für jüdisches Umzugsgut der Gestapo', Spurensuche 1-2/2000, p. 38-50 <http://members.aon.at/robert.holzbauer/spurensuche.pdf>, accessed 11 March 2003