Loot. 10 Stories

Looted silver from Jewish property

These bracelets, knives, forks, and baby rattles are just a small selection of a much larger collection of jewellery and everyday silver objects that were originally owned by Jewish people in Berlin. The items are on loan from the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to identify their original owners as they were not documented.

From 1933 on, Jews were systematically excluded from Germany’s economic and social life. In February 1939 the National Socialist regime forced all German Jews to hand in their precious metals to municipal pawnshops. This order came shortly after the November Pogrom, when innumerable of Jewish houses, businesses, and synagogues were looted or destroyed. In the following years, millions of European Jews were deported to ghettos, concentration camps, and extermination camps. The valuables taken from them were mostly used to fund the war; some remained in museum collections or fell into the hands of high-ranking regime officials. Between 1939 and 1940 the Märkisches Museum – now the Stadtmuseum Berlin – bought items from the municipal pawnshops and central purchasing office of the Reich, acquiring around 5,000 silver objects that had been confiscated from Jewish families. Almost 500 such objects of little material value are preserved in the museum today.

The Jewish Claims Conference’s demand for restitution on behalf of the Jewish community in 1993 kicked off a years-long process of exchange. In 2021, a just and fair solution was achieved: since restitution to owners was not possible, a compensation payment to the Jewish Claims Conference was agreed upon. Since then, the silver collection has officially become the permanent property of the Stadtmuseum, where it is still being documented in detail. Despite all difficulties, the museum is striving to return the stolen objects to their rightful owners and is looking for any clues that might facilitate this.

The Objects in the Exhibition

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Loot. 10 Stories