Loot. 10 Stories


In 2020, the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin (SSB) began studying the provenance of 47 pieces of furniture held by the Märkisches Museum, which joined the SSB in 1995. All that was known at this point was that the pieces had come to the museum after the Second World War by way of the Berlin Reichsbank bunker (an air-raid shelter for the German central bank). Marks on some of the pieces indicated that they had been taken out of Paris during the German occupation (1940–44). It must now be determined whether any of the furniture was seized from Jewish owners subjected to Nationalsocialist persecution. If evidence of this is found, the pieces would be considered “unlawfully confiscated” and would have to be returned.

The Anet chest of drawers gets its name from a mark on the back panel indicating that its first owners lived in Anet (France) in the 18th century. It is one of several pieces of furniture whose history can be traced back to 1941 with the aid of numbers, inscriptions, and archival documents. In early 1941, it was sold by Parisian antiques dealer B. Fabre et Fils to Heinrich Wolff, chief architect of the Reichsbank in Berlin. The Reichsbank purchased antiques from Paris on a large scale, particularly in the 1940s, and used them to furnish its annex building (now part of the German Foreign Office) as well as the grand rooms of its older location in Kurstraße. After the war, French art conservationists came to Berlin in search of the furniture, but the Russian occupying powers concealed its whereaboutsThe annex was used in the post-war period by the Berlin city bank (Stadtkontor) and then by the Finance Ministry. When the GDR was founded in 1949, the furniture was still in the building’s underground vault. In the course of renovations to the annex in 1951–52, the East German Finance Ministry had it moved to Märkisches Museum. Some of the pieces were used in the museum’s day-to-day operations, but most of them lay forgotten in the tower attic.

Research is still being conducted into how the Anet chest of drawers ended up on the Parisian art market. There is no evidence so far of expropriation, but this cannot yet be ruled out, and research continues into its previous owners in and before the 1930s

Film about the Anet Commode with the provenance researcher Regina Stein, 2023
4:19 Min
Jongsma + O’Neill

The Objects in the Exhibition

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Loot. 10 Stories