Looted

Press releases

The exhibition Looted, personal stories about the looting and restitution of Jewish cultural property (31 May-27 October 2024) reveals the emotional impact of the theft of personal property under the Nazi regime. It features eight personal stories of survivors and heirs of murdered Jews and the struggle they were forced to wage to reclaim their property and indeed their dignity after the war. Looted appears at two locations: at the recently opened National Holocaust Museum and the Jewish Museum. Looted: Personal stories about the looting and restitution of Jewish cultural property is a Jewish Cultural Quarter and Rijksmuseum collaboration.

Emile Schrijver, Jewish Cultural Quarter director: The Rijksmuseum offers the weight and authority this subject demands. We offer the experience to explore the complexity of the emotional impact.’

Taco Dibbits, Rijksmuseum’s director general: ‘Isolated, robbed, deported and murdered: the organised, systematic dispossession of property was part of the process of dehumanisation of Jews in the Second World War which culminated in the Holocaust. The exhibition shows the impact of this Nazi plunder and the indifference that met the victims when they sought restitution after the war. Eight personal stories bring the effect of the loss of treasured objects on owners and their families into relief, and the importance to their heirs of recovering what was lost.’

Eight stories
Objects, art, photos, personal documents, film and audio extracts and interviews with descendants bring eight stories to life. Five stories about the restitution of art feature at the National Holocaust Museum (Fritz Mannheimer, Dési Goudstikker, the Heppner-Krämer family, Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita and Margarete Stern-Lippmann), while the Jewish Museum shows three personal stories involving the restitution of Hebrew books and Jewish ceremonial objects (Louis Hirschel, Louis Lamm and Leo Isaac Lessmann).

Vanished without trace
Successful antiquarian book dealer Louis Lamm (1871-1943) fled from Berlin to Amsterdam in 1933. In 1941, the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst closed his business, and he himself was deported and murdered in late 1943. That same year, the Nazis seized his antiquarian collection. Today, a few items that belonged to Lamm are in Israel, but where most of the collection remains is unknown. Leo Isaac Lessmann (1891-1971) had stored a thousand Jewish ceremonial objects in crates at Lamm’s house: he had entrusted his collection to Louis Lamm as the situation in Germany deteriorated. Lessmann himself fled to Palestine in 1939. All these objects were lost without trace in the war. In 1966, West Germany awarded him a paltry financial compensation for the loss of his property. He never resumed collecting.

Emergency funds
In the 1930s, Fritz Mannheimer (1890-1939) assembled an international collection of applied art of the highest quality. He acquired many of his best pieces in the latter half of the decade from Jewish collectors in Germany who were compelled by Nazi persecution to sell their treasured items. Those who decided to leave Germany between 1933 and 1939, were required to pay a huge emigration tax. At the same time, Mannheimer was intensely moved by their plight and set up emergency funds to help German Jews. Part of his collection was shipped to Germany during the war, earmarked for the Führer museum that remained unbuilt. After the war, 1,800 objects came to the Rijksmuseum, where they form some of the finest items in the applied art collection.

Intransigent bureaucracy
The exhibition also tells the story of Dési Goudstikker-Halban (1912-1996). Her husband, art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, died in 1940 on their escape to England. After the war, she struggled for many years to recover his art collection from the Dutch state. Goudstikker’s flourishing art business had been stripped bare by the Nazis during the war. Dési Goudstikker found herself face-to-face with an uncompromising Dutch government and the stubborn bureaucratic officialdom of the organisations that lay in her path. Having pursued her case for many years, the exhausted heiress eventually agreed to settle.

Research
In 2012, five Rijksmuseum researchers began investigating the provenance of collection items acquired after 1933. This exhibition has come about in part a result of their research. Many of the art objects in the show are from the Rijksmuseum collection, alongside several items on loan from the United States. Looted has given the Jewish Cultural Quarter an opportunity to undertake new research into the plunder of Judaica, the results of which are presented in the narratives told in the Jewish Museum. Many of these objects are from Israel.

Exhibition podcast
The Lost Heppner Collection podcast is a search for justice. This four-part podcast series about Max Amichai Heppner (b. 1933) and his family’s collection made by Airborne Audio in collaboration with Eelke Muller, senior Restitution Expertise Centre/NIOD Institute of War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies researcher is available from 31 May.

Book
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication entitled Dispossessed. Personal Stories of Nazi-looted Jewish Cultural Property and Postwar Restitution published by Rijksmuseum/Jewish Cultural Quarter (ISBN Dutch 978-94-6208-853-5 ISBN English: 978-94-6208-858-0) priced € 27.50. The book was made possible with the support of Stichting Makaria en Gregory Annenberg Weingarten (GRoW @ Annenberg).

Symposium
On 9 and 10 September 2024, the international society of provenance researchers Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. will host a symposium in the Rijksmuseum auditorium. This will focus on the impact of dispossession and the changing significance of stolen art, books and Jewish ceremonial objects. The symposium is organised jointly by Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V., the Rijksmuseum, Jewish Cultural Quarter and Sotheby’s. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. and Sotheby's.

The exhibition has been made possible with support from VriendenLoterij, Stichting Collectieve Maror-gelden Nederland, Democracy & Media Foundation, Vfonds, Mondriaan Fonds, Stichting Levi Lassen and Friends of the Jewish Cultural Quarter.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or EACEA. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

Looted, personal stories about the looting and restitution of Jewish cultural property
31 May to 27 October 2024
Jewish Museum and National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam.

Made possible by

For more information

Boris de Munnick

Jewish Cultural Quarter

Casper van der Kruit

Rijksmuseum

+31 6 11 924 158