The art trade and the export files of the Federal Monuments Office 1938–1945

In a project financed by the Commission for Provenance Research, Gabriele Anderl, supported by Anneliese Schallmeiner, has been investigating the role of the art trade as reflected by the export forms (Ausfuhransuchen) in the archive of the Federal Monuments Office (Bundesdenkmalamt). The export forms from 1938 to 1945 in which art dealers and galleries appear as senders or recipients of cultural assets have been recorded and analysed.

Under the 1918 Austrian Export Prohibition Act and the 1923 Protection of Monuments Act, the export of valuable art objects from Austria was strictly regulated. As is known, this legislation was exploited during the Nazi era to block the export of valuables belonging to persecutees. After the war, it was also used to force victims, most of whom now lived abroad, to donate or sell to museums artworks coming under the export prohibition in return for the permission to export other items. Between 1938 and 1945, around 18,000 export applications were made, the vast majority in 1938. The forced emigration of the Jews and their dispossession are the main reason for the enormous increase in applications after the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany.

The names of the applicants and other details were first entered in an Excel table and the data then analysed. In the vast majority of cases, the goods were exported to Germany, mostly from art dealerships in Austria to dealerships in Germany. Because of the vague descriptions of the objects in many cases, it is often difficult to determine whether the goods had been seized and/or sold under pressure. The enormous increase in applications would suggest a close connection with the anti-Jewish measures. At all events, non-Jewish art dealers made large profits.

The project will be extended in 2020 to include the role of logistics companies.


TransCultAA – Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century

The Commission for Provenance Research acts as associated partner in this research project

This research project is the first attempt to investigate the transfer of cultural assets in the Alpe Adria area in the 20th century. In an unprecedented transnational and collaborative way, it will engage a multinational team of scholars to analyze “Uses of the Past”, in particular historical and current conflicts of ownership, patrimony, and cultural heritage…
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