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Nazi-looted property: Manuscripts of collector Beno Kaufmann handed over to rightful heirs

The Geothe and Schiller Archive. / Photo: Martin Schutt/ZB/dpa
The Geothe and Schiller Archive. / Photo: Martin Schutt/ZB/dpa

In the most extensive case of Nazi-looted property at the Goethe and Schiller Archive, manuscripts belonging to the collector Beno Kaufmann were handed over to rightful heirs.

In the most extensive case to date of Nazi-looted property at the Goethe and Schiller Archive, manuscripts belonging to the collector Beno Kaufmann, who was killed by the National Socialists, have been handed over to his rightful heirs. A letter and an inlay folder from Kaufmann's collection were sent to the family living in the USA at their request, the Klassik Stiftung Weimar announced on Tuesday.

39 letters, a poetry manuscript and an inlay folder with handwritten notes by the collector were identified by the experts at the Klassik Stiftung in the Goethe and Schiller Archive's holdings. Other institutions also found manuscripts from Kaufmann's collection in their holdings: the Saxon State Library - Dresden State and University Library (SLUB), the Freie Deutsche Hochstift in Frankfurt a. M. and the Thuringia State Archive - Weimar Main State Archive.

The SLUB announced that systematic research there had identified 23 autographs, i.e. manuscripts, from the collection, including a letter from the statesman and poet Eduard von Schenk to the writer Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853).

A total of 66 objects from the Kaufmann collection were discovered, according to the Klassik Stiftung. The respective institutions have purchased the documents that were not sent to the family in the USA. They are therefore rightfully in their collections, according to the statement. The SLUB plans to mark the objects there and to draw attention to Kaufmann's fate with a publication.

Beno Kaufmann was born in Krakow in 1862 and later lived in Berlin and Dresden. He collected coins, books, prints and manuscripts. The Nazis persecuted him because of his Jewish origins. They ultimately deported him to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he died in 1942.

According to the foundation, Kaufmann himself had no children. Through lengthy research, the experts at the Klassik Stiftung were finally able to locate descendants of two of his brothers living in the USA. A stumbling block in Dresden will commemorate Beno Kaufmann in the future, according to an additional online article from the foundation.

The Klassik Stiftung has been systematically examining its holdings for the provenance of cultural assets since 2010. The aim is to identify objects that came into the Foundation's possession as a result of the persecution of their rightful owners by the National Socialists. The cultural assets are then to be returned to the rightful owners or their heirs in accordance with an international agreement.

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