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For people persecuted as Jews because of Nazi ideology, emigration from the Third Reich after 1933 was often the only way to save their own lives and those of their families. Detailed packing lists had to be submitted to the Gestapo and high taxes had to be paid. The household possessions - stowed in cartons and crates, called "liftvans" - left Germany on cargo ships, mostly via the ports of Hamburg and Bremen. The transported goods were brought to the port by freight forwarders and stored there until they were shipped.
When the war began in September 1939, civilian shipping was largely discontinued. Freight that had not yet been loaded remained in the warehouses, and ships that had already left were ordered back to Germany. From spring 1940, the Gestapo confiscated these unshipped goods in order to "utilize" their contents and allow the proceeds to go to the German Reich. The emigrants' private possessions were publicly auctioned off to the highest bidder on behalf of the Oberfinanzdirektion (Chief Finance Office). Buyers were not only private individuals, but also traders, museums and libraries.
The database of these confiscated goods created in the previous project will now be expanded by important information about events in Hamburg and will continue to be supported by the two-member team of the DSM. In the future, the database will enable cooperation partners in Hamburg and members of the public to access information about objects that were confiscated and auctioned during the Nazi era and their original owners.
Project manager Dr. Kathrin Kleibl explains how overlaps and similarities in names can be found in the course of the initiated research process: "Freight forwarders, port companies, customs authorities, the Gestapo, trustees and the bailiff's office have well documented the goods and their routes, so that we can trace the detours by which an object reached a new owner. In some cases, objects were sold through middlemen before being offered to a museum. Certain names appear again and again. The aim of the project is to trace in detail the path of the relocated object from the time it left the owner's house to the new owner, in order to provide a basis for the tracing and restitution of the lost objects and works of art".
Kleibl continues: "The LIFTProv project provides basic research and an overdue processing of existing documents in the archives. In addition to the will to make amends and the intended return of objects to the heirs, the processes and involved parties will be historically re-arranged". From October 2020, the DSM provenance research department will extend the project into the second phase with a focus on the Hamburg region.
Provided with the kind permission of the Speicherstadtmuseum Hamburg (Gustav Werbeck/HHLA-Fotoarchiv)
Dr. Kathrin Kleibl
+49 471 48 207 835
Hendrik Althoff M.A. (research assistent, Institute for the History of the German Jews, Hamburg)
Jana Schäfer (student assistant)
Irene Cantez (volunteer for family research)
supportet by Deutschen Zentrum Kulturgutverluste
Since 2017, the DSM has been systematically checking its collection for the provenance (origin) of cultural assets. The German Centre for Losses of Cultural Property supports the project.
Since 1976, the single-cylinder four-stroke engine has been part of the collection of the Maritime Museum. Now the heirs of the former owner have been located.
The DSM collection includes a multi-piece silver cutlery set from the former Arnold Bernstein Line from Hamburg.
The research project aims to trace the path of Jewish emigrants' property from the time they leave their homes to the time they buy it.