The Museum of Cultural History is part of the Municipal Art and History Collections of Görlitz (Städtische Sammlungen für Geschichte und Kultur Görlitz) which also encompass the Oberlausitz Library of the Sciences (Oberlausitzische Bibliothek der Wissenschaften) and the Municipal Archives (Ratsarchiv).
Research into Nazi-confiscated works of art in the Museum’s collection
In the 1930s and early 1940s Sigfried Asche, the museum’s director between 1936 and 1951, built up the 19th and 20th century German collection through acquisitions of Nazi-confiscated art, mostly purchased at below market value. Many of the works originate from the confiscated Breslau (Wroclaw) collections of Dr. Otto Ollendorf, Carl Sachs, Leo Smoshever and Max Pinkus (decorative arts) and include paintings by Corinth, Slevogt, von Uhde and Trübner. Deals were frequently made with Wenzel, a Breslau art dealer. Other deals involved the Berlin art dealer Lange.
In recent years the Görlitz Museum of Cultural History was involved in several restitution claims. The museum was approached in 1990 regarding the Lovis Corinth 1911 painting Frau mit Lilien im Treibhaus (Woman with lilies in the hothouse) from the Ollendorf collection. The painting was returned to the collector’s heirs in 1999.
Research by the Claims Conference led to negotiations regarding four works from the Smoshever collection in 1998 and five works from the Carl Sachs collection in 2000.
Restitution negotiations regarding a work from the Smoshever collection, the 1912 painting Vorgarten or Gartenweg zum Sommerhaus (Front garden or Garden path to the summer house) by Max Slevogt, were ongoing in August 2003. The five works from the Sachs collection, i.e. the paintings Dorfbild (View of a village) and Brücke im Grünen (Bridge in the countryside) by Adolf Dressler and Drei Schwestern (Three sisters) by Fritz von Uhde; and the sculptures Jünglingskopf (Head of a youth) and Sitzende (Sitting female) by Georg Kolbe were returned to the heirs of Carl Sachs in late 2000.
There is at least one example of a Nazi-confiscated work which vanished from wartime storage and resurfaced on the art market decades later: Wilhelm Trübner’s portrait of a Belgian woman Bildnis (Belgierin) from 1874, originally in the Carl Sachs collection, was believed to be lost along with other works the museum had placed in storage. However, in 1999 a gallery offered it to the Görlitz Museum of Cultural History for sale under a different title, upon which the museum alerted the Claims Conference.
Research into works of art missing from the Museum
Part of the museum’s collection was placed in wartime storage in July and December 1943, including works or art originating from Nazi-confiscated collections. Much of these stored collections was destroyed, looted, removed by the Soviet army, or passed into Polish jurisdiction after the war. The museum is missing approximately 10,000 objects. Research into these losses in the post-war period was not completed. Today the museum is able to undertake such research again as part of the preparations for a 2004 exhibition on the institution’s history.
Annerose Klammt, Direktorin
Städtische Sammlungen für Geschichte und Kultur Görlitz
Tel: +49 (0)3581 671351
Fax:+49 (0)3581 671704
Annerose Klammt/Marius Winzeler, "Die moderne deutsche Kunst mußte zur Geltung gebracht werden" - Zur Erwerbung von Kunstwerken aus jüdischem Eigentum für die Kunstsammlungen in Görlitz’, in Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste (ed.), Beiträge öffentlicher Einrichtungen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland zum Umgang mit Kulturgütern aus ehemaligem jüdischen Besitz (Magdeburg: Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, 2001), 118-143, Text in German, Summary in English.
<http://www.museum-goerlitz.de/Sammlungen>, first accessed 14 November 2003. Link updated 16 July 2007.
Central Registry Archives, Correspondence, 18 August 2003.