THE CENTRE AND STUDIES OF COLLECTIONS AT THE MUSEUM OF DECORATIVE ARTS IN PRAGUE WITH ATTENTION PAID TO CULTURAL ASSETS OF VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST
Selected contents from this journal
Languages of publication
The Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague (UPM), established in 1885, is a specialist institution collecting, studying and presenting the history and contemporaneity of Czech art. After the onset of fascism and at the time of the Second World War UPM became the owner of works of art from former collections of citizens of Jewish descent, many of whom, aware of the threat posed by further residence in Central Europe, decided to leave. According to the then prevailing law art collection owners were obligated to demand state consent (an export license) for taking their works of art with them. The classification of artworks was determined by representatives of such cultural institutions as the National Gallery but also museums in Prague (e.g. UPM), Brno, Opava and other cities. Citizens of Jewish descent were compelled to pay for permits for emigrating by entrusting part of their collections as museum deposits. Some made the deposits in 1938 but soon regained them and the further fate of these artworks remains unknown. Others handed over their artistic assets in a clear-cut arrangement with the museum. Artworks from personal property belonging to citizens of Jewish descent were entrusted to UPM, the National Gallery and other institutions also from the amassed collections of the Board for Third Reich Property in 1944 and February 1945. It is precisely those collections and prewar deposits that decades later could be identified and connected with the history of concrete persons. After November 1989 one of the first acts compensating years of injustice suffered by the legitimate owners of real estate and mobile monuments was restitution based on resolution no. 87/1991Sb. The claimants were individual persons and Church institutions. In 2001 the Czech Republic established the Documentation Centre for Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WW II as part of the Academy of Sciences. Archival material at home and abroad was rendered accessible to members of the staff for the purpose of provenance studies regarding Czech museum exhibits. The Centre research encompasses also the UPM collections in Prague with due attention paid to the cultural assets of victims of the Holocaust. The outcome has been issued in the publications: Memories Returned and Ransom for a Life, and in 2008 UPM held an exhibition: “Memories returned” upon the occasion of an international conference on Holocaust Era Assets on show in Prague. The Centre attempts to present to the public the results of its research, to determine the location of exhibits originating from the property of the victims of the Holocaust, and to draw the attention of present-day owners that their collections contain objects originating from property stolen from the Jews.
Publication order reference