Arts: Art the Nazis seized from Jews to be auctioned for charity

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
More than 1,000 works of art confiscated from Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War are to be sold to benefit Holocaust victims and their families, Christie's auctioneers announced yesterday.

The Mauerbach Benefit Sale is expected to raise more than pounds 2.3m for the Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities when it is sold in the Austrian Museum of Applied Art in Vienna on 29 and 30 October.

It includes Old Masters and 19th-century drawings, as well as carpets, tapestries, arms and armour - most confiscated from Jewish homes by the National Socialists between 1938 and 1945.

The works of art have been stored for more than 40 years in a 14th-century monastery in the Austrian town of Mauerbach. They include works by Rudolf von Alt, Ludwig Knaus, Alexander Archipenko and Abraham Brueghel.

A spokeswoman for Christie's, which is holding the auction on a non-profit- making basis, said: "It will be a very poignant sale. These works of art which were simply in storage can now be turned to positive benefit."

Most of the property was turned over to the Austrian government by the Americans after the war, on the condition that every effort should be made to trace their original owners.

Repeated attempts to reunite surviving family members with the works of art have resulted in the return of more than 10,000 objects.

The remaining unclaimed items were transferred to the Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance in an act of Parliament last year.

But the auctioneers admit that the international coverage which the sale will prompt could mean that more owners may emerge.

"If someone does spot something in the catalogue which they think might have belonged to their family, it would really be a matter for the Austrian government - but if there was any element of doubt, the item would be withdrawn," the spokeswoman said.