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Since 1998, the Staatliches Museum Schwerin has conducted in-depth research on the provenances – i.e. the origins and history – of artworks which were acquired, transferred or inventoried there after 1933 and whose origins are either partly or entirely unknown. Taking the Washington Conference Principles (1998) and the "Guidelines for implementing the Statement by the German Federal Government, the federal states (Länder) and the national associations of local authorities on the tracing and return of Nazi-confiscated art, especially Jewish property" as its basis here, the museum has been investigating its stock of artworks.
The aim is to determine whether there are art pieces in the collection which were unlawfully removed from prior Jewish ownership during the Nazi era, or whether these concern regular acquisitions, donations and bequests. The intention is to achieve complete and full documentation of the provenances to the greatest extent possible.
In 2009, a research project was initiated with the Post for Provenance Research and Investigation (AfP) at the Institute for Museum Research in Berlin (now the German Centre for Lost Cultural Assets, Magdeburg). This conducted the academic research on the provenances of the paintings which had made their way since the 1930s into the Mecklenburg state museum (now the Staatliches Museum Schwerin), so as to identify Nazi-confiscated art in the stock of artworks at the museum.
While every effort was made during the two-year research project to document the provenances of the artworks completely and fully to the greatest possible extent, and thus facilitate the clarification of their ownership, this could not be achieved in all cases. Some of the provenances continue to have gaps in them or are completely unclarified, with the documents handed down in these cases not permitting any reliable assertions or claims to be made here anymore.
With the successive release of the incomplete and unknown provenances, the results of the two-year research work into the stock of paintings are now accessible to the public in the Lost Art Internet Database at the German Centre for Lost Cultural Assets Foundation. This also raises the hope that persons who know something about the history of the paintings named and reproduced here can contribute to the full clarification of the history of these pieces and provide new initiatives or indications for further research work.
The Staatliches Museum Schwerin is aware that there will always be cases in which final and unequivocal clarification does not prove possible. However, with its consistent and systematic provenance research and investigation of all the museum’s additions especially in the period from 1933 to 1945 and by reassessing its acquisition policies, the museum is fulfilling its moral responsibility here.
This research project was also supported by the former Post for Provenance Research and Investigation (AfP) at the Institute for Museum Research in Berlin.
It examined the inventories of sculptures, artisanal objets d’art, coins, medals, drawings and graphics, serving to systematically check through and identify Nazi-confiscated art. The research was conducted on the basis of the inventories, inventory item listings and documentary evidence in the Staatliches Museum Schwerin, including the archival documentation work already completed there, together with the results gained from it. The period under research was limited to the Nazi era from 1933 to 1945. The focus here was on items with "suspicious" provenances, such as the acquisitions from the Leipzig-based art and antique dealers Curt Naubert und C. G. Boerner, the Hamburg-based art shop Kurt Köster and the Berlin-based antiquarian shop Reinhold Puppel. Likewise, dealers in antiquities and coins active during the time of the Nazi regime in Mecklenburg(-Vorpommern), such as Ludwig Grabow (Rostock), Else Spangenberg (Rostock) and Carl Friedrich Michaelis (Neustrelitz), were subjected to a detailed investigation and the art pieces acquired there underwent in-depth examination.
Work has been conducted consistently on the listings of artworks missing due to the war, as well as on those art items which made their way as ownerless or expropriated art objects into the Mecklenburg State Museum or the Staatliches Museum Schwerin between 1933 and 1945 and after 1945.
Since 2001, the museum has released on this homepage the acquisitions by and transfers to the Mecklenburg state museum (now the Staatliches Museum Schwerin) between 1933 and 1945 of art pieces which could potentially have come from Jewish ownership or from other persecuted groups.