Research projects


Relocation goods confiscated in Bremen ports

From 1940 Liftvans in Bremen, filled with the removal goods of Jewish emigrants were confiscated by the NS regime and their contents were publicly auctioned off to the highest bidder. We try to clarify the whereabouts of the goods.


Directly from the interim results of the investigations begun at the DSM since 2017 on individual objects in the collection with regard to their provenance (origin), a further research project has developed which is particularly important for the North German and Bremen regions: "The handling of the emigration goods of Jewish emigrants in Bremen after 1939: participants, networks and ways of exploitation". The aim of this project is to reconstruct the routes of about 1,000 boxes (also known as liftvans) filled with removal goods, which were previously booked on cargo ships from Bremen to overseas. Due to the outbreak of war, no more ships left Bremen from September 1, 1939, and the lifts remained in storage facilities in the port. The owners of the contents of these resettlement boxes were Jewish Germans who wanted to emigrate from the German Reich in the face of the ever-increasing threats from the National Socialists.


Confiscation of the lifts and "exploitation" of the removal goods by the NS regime


At the end of 1940, the Gestapo began to take an interest in the removal goods of Jewish emigrants stored in the ports, in order to bring these values to the German Reich as well. This was followed by the confiscation and opening of all lifts and then the public auctioning of the contents on behalf of the Oberfinanzdirektion Bremen. Through the auctions, these household goods and valuables found their way into many private houses and apartments, where they may still be found today. But the auctioned goods were also taken to the offices and museums of Bremen and Lower Saxony. The story behind many a beautiful cupboard, a painting or a carved armchair may have begun at an "auction of Jewish emigration goods" - these auctions were advertised in the newspaper at the time - in Bremen in 1942.

Unsuccessful search for the removal goods and compensation


After the war, the owners or their descendants began to search for their belongings. First, the allied military government took up the search and began to reconstruct the processes: the transports, the expropriations, the confiscations and those involved. Then the responsible authorities of the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany continued this search.

Almost no contents of the liftvans could be found, and yet some families tried for years to get hold of their possessions, which were dear to them. Very few of them were successful. After often protracted and humiliating claims for restitution from German authorities, many claimants settled for a small amount of compensation. Their family heirlooms, however, were never returned to them. The fates of some of these people and their property can be read in the restitution and compensation files of the 1950s and 1960s.


From owner to buyer - an attempt at reconstruction


The aim of the project is to trace the path of Jewish emigrants' personal effects from the moment they leave the owner's house to the buyer, thus providing a basis for the discovery and restitution of the lost objects.

The research project is located in the Department for Provenance Research at the German Maritime Museum. Provenance research is concerned with the investigation of the origin of cultural property. The project is financed and supported by the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg. One of the Foundations main aims is to promote the search for cultural property confiscated during the nationalsocialist era, especially from Jewish property. Our project is also in close cooperation with the State Archive Bremen and the State and University Library Bremen.



Dr. Kathrin Kleibl (Project Management)

Susanne Kiel (contact person)


Picture credits

The cover picture "Moving lift of the Wolff family, Dannenberg 1938" was kindly provided to us by the city archive of Dannenberg (Elbe).


Related Contributions


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