German Museum Denies Heir Art Collection Stolen By Nazis

ArtLyst 13 February 2012

The German Historical Museum is resisting legal pressure to return 4,259 posters to Peter Sachs, the rightful heir of German Jewish art collector Hans Sachs, whose collection was forcefully seized by the Nazis

Hans Sachs’ original collection had included works by Jules Cheret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Ludwig Hohlwein, and totalled 12,500 posters – the largest assembly of posters in the world at that time.

After the war, Hans Sachs suspected that his collection had been destroyed after confiscation and demanded compensation of $50,000 in 1961, which he promptly received. But surviving collection now on display at the German Historical Museum could be valued at as much as $ 5.9 million!

And so, the collection of posters –  currently owned by the German government – is the subject of heated ongoing litigation. In 2010, the courts overruled an earlier decision to return the posters to Sachs, and stated that while Peter Sachs owns the posters, it is not within his rights to gain possession of them. But Matthias Druba, the attorney for Peter Sachs, stated that he now  sees ‘a positive tendency’ in the legal process and from an expected March decision from the Federal Administrative Court in Karlsruhe. And it’s not just about the money, but ‘his family history’, he added.

The German-Jewish dentist, who died in 1974, began collecting posters as an adolescent and his collection reached more than 12,000 items. He was also the founder of the magazine Das Plakat, which published posters and organized lectures and events. The Nazis seized his material in 1937, and deported Hans Sachs to a concentration camp in 1938. After his incarceration, Sachs managed to flee with his wife and young son, Peter, to the United States.
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