The Nazis systematically plundered Jewish art collections in Germany. This documentary looks at selected cases to how art dealers profited from the persecution of Jewish collectors after 1933.
The documentary spotlights the fate of the collection of Ernst and Agathe Saulmann. Ernst Saulmann was Jewish textile manufacturer who lived in the Swabian Alb region of southern Germany and had a large private art collection. The couple fled into exile in 1938 and the Nazis commissioned their regular art dealer, Julius Böhler, to sell their collection. While Böhler benefited from this and other sales of purloined Jewish art, the genuine owners received none of the proceeds and were interned in Gurs internment camp in France. Only a few objects from the Saulmanns’ collection have been returned. This documentary looks at the difficulties faced by specialists trying to determine the original owners and locations of art plundered by the Nazis. The film’s creators interview many provenance specialists and Saulmann’s heir Felix de Marez Oyens, as well as the grandson of Julius Böhler, who runs his grandfather's art shop today. Recently, Böhler handed over the company archives to the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Central Institute of Art History) in Munich.