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Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice

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The legendary names include Rothschild, Mendelssohn, Bloch-Bauer—distinguished bankers, industrialists, diplomats, and art collectors. Their diverse taste ranged from manuscripts and musical instru­ments to paintings by Old Masters and the avant-garde. But their stigma as Jews in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe doomed them to exile or death in Hitler’s concentration camps The legendary names include Rothschild, Mendelssohn, Bloch-Bauer—distinguished bankers, industrialists, diplomats, and art collectors. Their diverse taste ranged from manuscripts and musical instru­ments to paintings by Old Masters and the avant-garde. But their stigma as Jews in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe doomed them to exile or death in Hitler’s concentration camps. Here, after years of meticulous research, Melissa Müller (Anne Frank: The Biography) and Monika Tatzkow (Nazi Looted Art) present the tragic, compelling stories of 15 Jewish collectors, the dispersal of their extraordinary collections through forced sale and/or confiscation, and the ongoing efforts of their heirs to recover their inheritance. For every victory in the effort to return these works to their rightful heirs, there are daunting defeats and long court battles. This real-life legal thriller follows works by Rembrandt, Klimt, Pissarro, Kandinsky, and others.  Praise for Lost Lives, Lost Art:  <!--StartFragment--> “A heartbreaking and enthralling story of the brutal and mindless Nazi destruction of a singularly cultivated caste of rich German and Austrian Jews and the pillage of their great art collections: a world that was lost and could never be recreated.” ~ Louis Begley "Each chapter focuses on a single collector. . . the adulatory profiles [are] matched with an attractive layout and an abundance of well-selected images." ~ Wall Street Journal  "The book is meticulously researched, brilliantly and dispassionately written, and is in all likelihood a game changer in the world of art, art provenance, and art restitution that will resound for years to come."~ ForeWord Reviews "Richly illustrated with excellent art reproductions and family photographs, this is a solid addition to works on Nazi art plundering and the world of art restitution, ownership, and property rights. This will be of great interest to readers wanting to know more about upper-class Austrian and German Jews. Recommended." ~ Library Journal


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The legendary names include Rothschild, Mendelssohn, Bloch-Bauer—distinguished bankers, industrialists, diplomats, and art collectors. Their diverse taste ranged from manuscripts and musical instru­ments to paintings by Old Masters and the avant-garde. But their stigma as Jews in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe doomed them to exile or death in Hitler’s concentration camps The legendary names include Rothschild, Mendelssohn, Bloch-Bauer—distinguished bankers, industrialists, diplomats, and art collectors. Their diverse taste ranged from manuscripts and musical instru­ments to paintings by Old Masters and the avant-garde. But their stigma as Jews in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe doomed them to exile or death in Hitler’s concentration camps. Here, after years of meticulous research, Melissa Müller (Anne Frank: The Biography) and Monika Tatzkow (Nazi Looted Art) present the tragic, compelling stories of 15 Jewish collectors, the dispersal of their extraordinary collections through forced sale and/or confiscation, and the ongoing efforts of their heirs to recover their inheritance. For every victory in the effort to return these works to their rightful heirs, there are daunting defeats and long court battles. This real-life legal thriller follows works by Rembrandt, Klimt, Pissarro, Kandinsky, and others.  Praise for Lost Lives, Lost Art:  <!--StartFragment--> “A heartbreaking and enthralling story of the brutal and mindless Nazi destruction of a singularly cultivated caste of rich German and Austrian Jews and the pillage of their great art collections: a world that was lost and could never be recreated.” ~ Louis Begley "Each chapter focuses on a single collector. . . the adulatory profiles [are] matched with an attractive layout and an abundance of well-selected images." ~ Wall Street Journal  "The book is meticulously researched, brilliantly and dispassionately written, and is in all likelihood a game changer in the world of art, art provenance, and art restitution that will resound for years to come."~ ForeWord Reviews "Richly illustrated with excellent art reproductions and family photographs, this is a solid addition to works on Nazi art plundering and the world of art restitution, ownership, and property rights. This will be of great interest to readers wanting to know more about upper-class Austrian and German Jews. Recommended." ~ Library Journal

30 review for Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    The longer one reads this meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated work, the more depressed one becomes about the depths of deviousness, greed and dishonesty to which individuals can descend,especially when given the opportunity and "legal" imprimatur by government. The book recounts in detail the thousands of unethical dispossessions that were undertaken under the facade of "legality" by the nazis, and perhaps more shockingly, continued by postwar governments who also used the argume The longer one reads this meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated work, the more depressed one becomes about the depths of deviousness, greed and dishonesty to which individuals can descend,especially when given the opportunity and "legal" imprimatur by government. The book recounts in detail the thousands of unethical dispossessions that were undertaken under the facade of "legality" by the nazis, and perhaps more shockingly, continued by postwar governments who also used the argument of "legal transactions" to rationalise the continued possession of paintings taken or stolen under duress and threat of death. The book brings home, with tremendous impact,the difference between legislation and justice, and illustrates the sad truth that decency and government frequently have very little to do with each other.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    Excellent true drama! Compulsively very readable but so heart breaking! Never read anything like it- featuring the true stories of the Nazi looting of Jewish art collections and the tragedies of that time in Europe during the Holocaust when families and art collections were torn apart... there is hope as some famous paintings and works of art have been returned to heirs over 60 years later.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Lopez

    In separating wealthy Jews from their art collections, the Nazi regime was nothing if not resourceful. Decrees of confiscation, forced sales, sham auctions, “taxes” demanded in return for exit visas--such formalities generated mountains of paperwork and lent an air of legality to Holocaust plunder. As a result, many artworks stolen 70 years ago remain subject to competing claims and counter-claims today. Sovereign governments to whom looted items were repatriated by Allied recovery teams in the In separating wealthy Jews from their art collections, the Nazi regime was nothing if not resourceful. Decrees of confiscation, forced sales, sham auctions, “taxes” demanded in return for exit visas--such formalities generated mountains of paperwork and lent an air of legality to Holocaust plunder. As a result, many artworks stolen 70 years ago remain subject to competing claims and counter-claims today. Sovereign governments to whom looted items were repatriated by Allied recovery teams in the postwar period have often been slow to return valuable masterpieces to descendants of the original owners. And thorny legal issues arise when disputed objects come into the possession of third parties who wish to establish clear title. The 15 cases detailed in Lost Lives, Lost Art are among the most contentious in the field of Holocaust art restitution. All have been subject to extensive litigation, and some proceedings remain active. Melissa Müller, a historian of the Holocaust, and Monika Tatzkow, an authority on art restitution, provide a spirited history of the people and collections behind these cases. They offer a clear and unequivocal rationale for why hundreds of disputed objects should be returned to specific individuals, forcefully arguing the plaintiffs’ brief in the court of public opinion. As such, this book is a powerful and persuasive piece of advocacy journalism. But serious scholars may well deem it a missed opportunity. Vast amounts of useful and interesting information can be found here, but only very broad sources are cited--“Central Bavarian State Archive, Munich,” or “City Archive, Amsterdam.” Few references tie any facts mentioned in the text to the particular archival documents or other source materials from which they derive. In consequence, the book is of negligible value as a guide for further research. The authors are at their best dealing with cases in which the main legal issues are no longer in dispute, such as the Goudstikker matter, in which the heirs of Amsterdam art dealer Jacques Goudstikker negotiated the return of 200 pictures from the Dutch government in 2005--some 65 years after Hermann Goering’s agents unlawfully acquired them. The Goudstikker section is particularly valuable because it is co-written by the Dutch journalist Pieter den Hollander, author of De zaak Goudstikker (1998), the influential, but never translated, Dutch-language book that set into motion the family’s successful restitution claim. With its measured tone, thoughtful arguments, and impeccably documented research, Den Hollander’s book could have provided a worthy model for the present volume. Unfortunately Müller and Tatzkow too often oversimplify the weighty questions of law and jurisprudence that complicate many restitution cases while dwelling on personalities and side issues. The book is handsomely produced with full-color reproductions of artworks and numerous historical photographs, but the lavish design aesthetic seems too heavily influenced by high-end fashion magazines and is wildly at odds with the sober subject matter under discussion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    An amazing look into the Nazi system of "legitimate" looting to justify plundering the art collections of the wealthy (and I assume) not so wealthy jewish collections of some of the most beautiful pieces of art out there. The story of the persecution of hard working and loyal citizens is nothing new but within this book we get a real peek into the world of the museums and collectors of today that continue to justify hanging onto works with known and suspect provenance, paintings and objects of a An amazing look into the Nazi system of "legitimate" looting to justify plundering the art collections of the wealthy (and I assume) not so wealthy jewish collections of some of the most beautiful pieces of art out there. The story of the persecution of hard working and loyal citizens is nothing new but within this book we get a real peek into the world of the museums and collectors of today that continue to justify hanging onto works with known and suspect provenance, paintings and objects of art that came into their collections by less than honest means. Shame on the Austrians as we all know, but the dutch are party to this as well? Though I don't know why I should be surprised. Highly recommend.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Deb Oestreicher

    This book is beautifully produced, packed with historical photographs and images of artworks as well as well-written accounts of several families whose art was confiscated, lost, or sold for far less than its actual value as a result of Nazi persecution. Most of these accounts are quite sad, but also fascinating as they manage to recreate a world that has been lost. The book also provides an understanding of the legal issues around restitution and makes you think differently about museums, which This book is beautifully produced, packed with historical photographs and images of artworks as well as well-written accounts of several families whose art was confiscated, lost, or sold for far less than its actual value as a result of Nazi persecution. Most of these accounts are quite sad, but also fascinating as they manage to recreate a world that has been lost. The book also provides an understanding of the legal issues around restitution and makes you think differently about museums, which behaved pretty badly in the postwar period.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary Noyszewski

    Brief sketches of families who lost their families & fortunes to the Nazis. Really shows how the Nazis turned on their citizens with the abusive taxing systems - sending families bills for their relatives staying in concentration camps, and taxes designed to make sure when the wealthy fled they could not take their wealth with them. A very revealing book, with great photos of people & their fine art.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Excellent book. Full review will follow.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan Tan

    Very dry detailed history book on the ultra-rich Jewish families of Austria & Germany during Nazi occupation and how they lost their art. This is a book about the concentrations camps from the POV of art theft & art collectors and their descendants who want to claim lost Nazi-looted art from art museums.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Brinkmann

    Beautiful collection of heart-breaking stories that leave you aching for justice and mourning how the Holocaust not only murdered millions of people but destroyed huge parts of central and eastern European culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    A beautiful book!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Emmett

    A beautiful book on an ugly subject.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ritja

    Ein sehr gutes Buch über die Enteignung von jüdischen Menschen während der NS-Zeit. Anhand von bekannten und unbekannten Biographien zeigen die Autoren die teilweise brutale Vorgehensweise der Nazis bei der "Jagd" nach entarteter Kunst bzw. bei der Enteignung der Juden. Die jüdischen Kaufleute, Künstler usw. hatten kaum eine Chance ihre Gemälde, Bilder und Skizzen zu verstecken oder außer Landes zu bringen. Oft wurden sie bei Freunden untergestellt oder mussten weit unter Wert verkauft werden. E Ein sehr gutes Buch über die Enteignung von jüdischen Menschen während der NS-Zeit. Anhand von bekannten und unbekannten Biographien zeigen die Autoren die teilweise brutale Vorgehensweise der Nazis bei der "Jagd" nach entarteter Kunst bzw. bei der Enteignung der Juden. Die jüdischen Kaufleute, Künstler usw. hatten kaum eine Chance ihre Gemälde, Bilder und Skizzen zu verstecken oder außer Landes zu bringen. Oft wurden sie bei Freunden untergestellt oder mussten weit unter Wert verkauft werden. Erst nach 1945 konnten sich die Überlebenden auf die Suche nach ihrem Eigentum machen und nicht selten sind sie dabei gescheitert. In zähen und langwierigen Prozessen konnten sie sich einen Bruchteil zurückholen. Das Buch zeigt deutlich, dass die Rückgabe von Raubgut noch lange nicht abgeschlossen ist und viele Bilder, Gemaälde & Co. wohl für immer verschwunden bleiben werden. Für die Nachkommen wird es schwer werden den Besitz zu beweisen bzw. zu belegen, denn welcher Flüchtling nimmt Kaufbelege und Quittungen mit, wenn es um sein nacktes Uberleben geht? Die Biographien sind interessant und gut recherchiert. Das Bildmaterial ist sehr gut und bringt dem Leser die Familien und deren Schicksal noch ein Stück näher. Lebendige Geschichte, die sehr empfehlenswert ist.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides

    Just the foreword and introduction were enough to make me want to cry and feel sick. Not because they were gory or anything, but because it's upsetting to think about people being willing to be accessories after the fact in this way. Because these days art is big money and big business. Just the foreword and introduction were enough to make me want to cry and feel sick. Not because they were gory or anything, but because it's upsetting to think about people being willing to be accessories after the fact in this way. Because these days art is big money and big business.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Interesting book about owners of much of the lost art....some of the people mentioned are well know but many were not familiar to me. Also wish more pictures of the lost and stolen art could have been included....

  15. 4 out of 5

    Margarita

    This is a series of 15 biographies - well written and researched - outlining the loss of art collections during the Second World War along with the challenges of retrieving them. The use of images of the families and lost art helps to personalize the reading experience.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shanayah

  17. 5 out of 5

    James E. Cochran

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kewpie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  20. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie Rosenberg

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karlee Arendt

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Hawes

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thewallofbooks

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Boyd

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dan Gabriel Ontelus

  29. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob

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