One German auction house has published It’s records from the Third Reich era, This could prove to be highly significant in the recovery and repatriation of art works looted prior to April 1945.
The then-owner of the Auction House Adolf Weinmüller remained little known before the Allied officers in charge of saving looted art – seized a hoard of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, drawings and candlesticks from him at the end of the war .
Thirteen Pages of items were catalogued.
That’s almost three times as long as the list of artworks temporarily taken from fellow art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt – many of which were eventually found in 2012 in the Munich flat of his reclusive son, Cornelius.
And it was only a fraction of the looted artwork that made its way through Mr Weinmüller’s auction house during the Nazi era:
he sold a total of 32,000 works of art between 1936 and 1944, many of them stolen from Jewish families and occupied countries .
The Neumeister auction house had previously claimed that its records of that time were destroyed by the allied air force .
However last year it said it had discovered annotated catalogues from the time in a filing cabinet in the cellar .
In 2016 it made the information from those catalogues freely available on the Internet.
This Is the first time any German art dealer has publicly released its records from the Nazi era.
Their publication was 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.
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.