Nazi display at German Historical Museum 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
BERLIN – The German Historical Museum may be legally compelled to return 4,259
posters to Peter Sachs, the son of the German Jewish art collector Hans Sachs,
whose collection was unlawfully seized by the Nazis on orders from Joseph
Goebbels, the head of Hitler’s propaganda ministry.
Matthias Druba, the
attorney for Peter Sachs, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that he sees “a
positive tendency” in the legal process and from an expected March decision from
the Federal Administrative Court in Karlsruhe.
A legal hearing last week
in Karlsruhe set the decision date for next month.
The collection of
posters – which is owned by the German government and the city of Berlin – has
been the subject of heated ongoing litigation since 2007. In contrast to other
cases of stolen Jewish property in the Federal Republic, the German Historical
Museum and its former president Hans Ottomeyer have waged a bitter legal fight
to prevent the art posters from being returned to the family of Sachs in the
United States, said Druba.
During the formative stages of the process to
block the return of the posters, Ottomeyer used a Nazi-era anti-Semitic term to
denigrate Sachs and his family. The term, Verhökern, can loosely be translated
as to “hawk” or “huckster,” and was applied to Jewish business practices by the
Druba, a lawyer with the prestigious FPS law firm in Berlin, told
that a court previously deemed Peter Sachs to be the legal owner. Druba added that this collection of art posters is “his family history.”
highest decision body for civilian disputes in Karlsruhe may issue its verdict
on March 16, or at an earlier date in March. The zig-zag legal battle
resulted in a 2010 Berlin appeals court decision, stating Peter Sachs owns the
posters but is not within his rights to gain possession of them. The 2010 ruling
overruled an earlier decision ordering the return of the posters to
The Nazis illegally confiscated what is widely considered the most
important collection of posters before the period of 1933, and deported Hans
Sachs to a concentration camp in 1938. The German-Jewish dentist, who died in
1974, began collecting posters as an adolescent and his collection reached more
than 12,000 items. The Nazis seized the material in 1937.
Sachs was the
founder of the magazine Das Plakat
, which published posters and organized
lectures and events.
After his incarceration in a concentration camp,
Sachs managed to flee with his wife and young son, Peter, to the United
Sachs’ collection covers a who’s who of the art-poster world,
including Jules Cheret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Ludwig Hohlwein, and
totaled 12,500 posters. The collection was at the time the largest
assembly of posters in the world. One poster featured in the German
Historical Museum shows the film star Marlene Dietrich from the movie Blonde
. The Dietrich poster is world famous.
According to German media
reports, Hans Sachs suspected that his collection had been destroyed during the
war and received $50,000 in 1961. The German Historical Museum estimates
the collection is now valued at $ 5.9 million. Druba told the Post
collection has not been independently appraised. As a result, it is not possible
to know the precise value of the collection.
It is unclear why Germany is
waging such an intense legal process to deny the Sachs family the right to retrieve
Peter Sachs, a retired pilot who lives in Sarasota,
Florida, started to research his family’s history in 2006 and jump-started the
process to retrieve the illegally held collection in Berlin from the German
Peter was not able to attend last week’s hearing due to
illness. Dr. Rudolf Trabold, a spokesman for the German Historical Museum in
Berlin, did not immediately answer Post
e-mails and telephone calls on Sunday.
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