Führermuseum

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The Führermuseum (English, Leader's museum) was an unrealized museum complex planned by Adolf Hitler for the Austrian city of Linz to display the collection of art plundered or stolen by the Nazis throughout Europe during World War II.

Design[edit]

Linz's original central station building.
Albert Speer and Hitler – May 1943

The plans for the Linz complex designed by Albert Speer and other architects included a monumental theatre, an opera house and an Adolf Hitler Hotel, all surrounded by huge boulevards and a parade ground.[1] A library would house at least 250,000 books; the museum itself would have a colonnaded façade about 500 feet (150 meters) long, in the design paralleling that of the Haus der Deutsche Kunst already erected in Munich. It would stand on the site of the Linz railroad station, which was to be moved four kilometers to the south.[2]

Collection[edit]

On 21 June 1939, Hitler set up the Sonderauftrag Linz (Special Commission: Linz) in Dresden and appointed Dr Hans Posse (de), director of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Dresden picture gallery), as special envoy. The Sonderauftrag collected art for the Führermuseum, which Hitler wanted to build in Linz, his hometown in Upper Austria, and for other museums in the German Reich, especially in the eastern territories. The artworks would have been distributed to these museums after the war.

The Sonderauftrag was located in Dresden and consisted of art historians in service of the Dresden Gallery of Paintings, e.g. Robert Oertel and Gottfried Reimer. Posse died in December 1942 of cancer. In March 1943, Hermann Voss, an art historian and director of the Wiesbaden Gallery took over the Sonderauftrag Linz.[3]

The methods of acquisition ranged from confiscation to purchase and includes many cases of forced sale, using funds from sales of Hitler's book Mein Kampf and stamps showing his portrait.[4][5] The purchases were mostly stored in the Führerbau (Hitler's office building) in Munich; the confiscated artworks were stored in deposits in Upper Austria. Since February 1944, the art works were moved to the salt mines of Altaussee to protect them from increased bombing.[2][4] Detailed records of the collection were kept at Dresden and moved to Schloss Weesenstein (de) at the end of the war, where they were confiscated by the Russians.

In 2008, the German Historic Museum of Berlin published a database[6] with paintings collected for the Führermuseum and for other museums in the German Reich. But the most important historical and visual sources relating to the gallery of the "Führermuseum" are photo albums, which were created by the Sonderauftrag between autumn 1940 and autumn 1944. They were presented to Hitler every Christmas and on his birthday, 20 April. Originally thirty-one volumes existed, but only nineteen have been preserved.[7] The album are documents of the intended gallery holdings, the first 20 volumes show the gallery in a provisional state finished.

There is some debate about whether art for the Führermuseum was stolen or purchased. Hanns Christian Löhr argues in "The Brown House of Art" that only a small portion of the collection – possibly 12 percent – came from seizures or expropriation. Moreover, another 2.5% was derived from forced sales. However, Jonathan Petropoulos, a historian at Loyola College in Baltimore and an expert in wartime looting, argues that most of the purchases were not arms' length in nature.[8] Gerard Aalders, a Dutch historian, said those sales amounted to technical looting, since the Netherlands and other occupied countries were forced to accept German reichsmarks that ultimately proved worthless. Aalders argues that "If Hitler's or Goering's art agent stood on your doorstep and offered $10,000 for the painting instead of the $100,000 it was really worth, it was pretty hard to refuse". Aalders adds that Nazis who encountered reluctant sellers threatened to confiscate the art or arrest the owner.[8] Birgit Schwarz, an expert on the Führermuseum, in her review of Löhr's book, pointed out that the author focused on the purchases in the Führerbau in Munich and ignored the deposits of looted art in Upper Austria (Thürntal, Kremsmünster and Hohenfurt/Vyssi Brod). Actually the author treats these deposits on pages 135 and 136 in his book [9]

The Dutch Advisiory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War assesses sales by Jews to the Sonderauftrag Linz. At least two restitution claims were rejected because the Committee argued that there were not enough indications showing coercion as the cause of the sale. For example in 2009 the Restitution Committee rejected the application for the restitution of 12 works sold by the Jewish art dealer Kurt Walter Bachstitz to the Sonderauftrag Linz between 1940 and 1941. The Committee argued that Bachstitz had been "undisturbed" in the first years of the occupation nand said it had not found signs of coercion.[10] In 2012 the Commission rejected a claim of the heirs of Benjamin and Nathan Katz, former Jewish art dealers in the Netherlands. The claim related inter alia to 64 works that the art dealership Katz sold to the Sonderauftrag Linz. The Commission came to the conclusion that there were not enough indications demonstrating that the sales were made under duress.[11]

As the Allied troops approached the salt mine, August Eigruber, Gauleiter of Upper Austria, gave orders to blow it up; Hitler countermanded the order, but after the "Führer's" death Eigruber ignored this. Nevertheless his order was not carried out. Most of the collection was recovered, but some was not. Some argue that stolen artwork is hanging in museums and collections around the world.[5] This is discussed in the documentary The Rape of Europa and in Noah Charney's book about The Ghent Altarpiece, Stealing the Mystic Lamb.

Post-war[edit]

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs at the Berghof.

After World War II, the American Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) made thirteen detailed reports on the Linz museum and the Nazi plundering of art.[12] These reports were synthesised into four consolidated reports; the fourth of these was written by S. Lane Faison covering the Führermuseum.[12] These reports focused on returning art to rightful owners.

In Eastern Europe, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin charged Mikhail Khrapchenko with taking many of the Führermuseum artworks to stock Soviet art galleries.[2] Khrapchenko said "it would now be possible to turn Moscow’s Pushkin Museum into one of the world’s great museums, like the British Museum, the Louvre, or the Hermitage."[citation needed]

In 2010, an album that an American soldier looted from Hitler's home, Berghof, during the war that catalogued artwork Hitler desired for the museum is to be returned to Germany.[13]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bell, Bethany (3 November 2008), "Hitler’s Austrian ‘culture capital’", BBC News, retrieved 13 December 2008 
  2. ^ a b c Hitler’s Museum, retrieved 13 December 2008 
  3. ^ Birgit Schwarz:Sonderauftrag Linz km und „Führermuseum“, in: Ausst.-Kat. Raub und Restitution, Jüdisches Museum Berlin 2008
  4. ^ a b Lohr, Hanns (20 November 2000), No Looted Art in Hitler's Museum in Linz, retrieved 13 December 2008 
  5. ^ a b DW Staff (24 August 2008). "The Mystery of Hitler's Lost Art Collection". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 13 December 2008. 
  6. ^ http://www.dhm.de/datenbank/linzdb/indexe.html
  7. ^ Birgit Schwarz, Hitlers Museum. Die Fotoalben Gemäldegalerie Linz. Wien 2004; Birgit Schwarz, Hitler's Museum, in: Vitalizing Memory. International Perspectives on Provenance Research, Washington 2005, S. 51-54
  8. ^ a b Robinson, Walter (25 November 1997). "Sotheby's takes work tied to Nazis off". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 18 April 2003. Retrieved 13 December 2008. 
  9. ^ Birgit Schwarz, Kampf der Zentauren daheim: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17. Oct. 2005, p. 40
  10. ^ Dutch Restitution Commission RC 1.78, Consideration 5 and 16 url=http://www.restitutiecommissie.nl/en/adviezen/advies_178.html/ 
  11. ^ name=”Dutch Restitution Commission”Dutch Restitution Commission RC 1.90 B, Consideration 21 url=http://www.restitutiecommissie.nl/en/files/advies_rc_190b_pdf.html/ 
  12. ^ a b Petropolous, Prof. Jonathan, Linz: Hitler's Museum and Library: Consolidated Interrogation Report No. 4, 15 December 1945, The Reports of the Office of Strategic Services Art Looting Investigation Unit, retrieved 13 December 2008 [dead link]
  13. ^ "WWII veteran had Hitler's art book on bookshelf". Mercury News. 9 December 2009. Retrieved 9 December 2009. [dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Spotts, Frederic: Hitler and the power of aesthetics. Woodstock & New York 2003, pp. 188–220. ISBN 1-58567-345-5.
  • Schwarz, Birgit: Hitler's Museum. Die Fotoalben Gemäldegalerie Linz. Wien, Böhlau Verlag, 2004. ISBN 3-205-77054-4.
  • Schwarz, Birgit: Hitler's Museum, in: Vitalizing Memory. International Perspektives on Provenance Research. Washington 2005, pp. 51–54.
  • Schwarz, Birgit: Le Führermuseum de Hitler et la Mission spéciale Linz, in: André Gob, Des musées au-dessus de tout soupcon, Paris 2007, pp. 164–176. ISBN 978-2-200-35099-4
  • Löhr, Hanns Christian: Das Braune Haus der Kunst. Hitler und der "Sonderauftrag Linz". Berlin Akademie Verlag, 2005. ISBN 978-3-05-004156-8.
  • Schwarz, Birgit: Sonderauftrag Linz und „Führermuseum“, in: Raub und Restitution, Jüdisches Museum Berlin 2008, pp. 127–133 ISBN 978-3-8353-0361-4

External links[edit]