Ludwig Bernheimer

On 16 December 1938, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek wrote to the Secret State Police. The acquisition department confirmed the "receipt of seven volumes of the publication 'The Spanish Series (London. John Lane)' from the property of Ludwig Bernheimer." The Gestapo had stolen the books about four weeks earlier from the private apartment of Dr Ludwig Bernheimer (1906 – 1967) in the Pienzenauerstraße in München-Bogenhausen. The lawyer who had gained his Ph. D. in 1928 with a thesis discussing the "Die Rechtsverhältnisse der an einer Kunstversteigerung beteiligten Personen" (The legal relationships between persons engaged in an art auction) at the University of Erlangen, directed together with his father Otto, his uncle Ernst and his cousin Paul the renowned art and antiquities gallery L. Bernheimer.

Between November 1938 and February 1939, the Gestapo robbed 68 Jewish families in Munich of their art objects and valuables. Among these families was the Bernheimer dynasty of art dealers. The raid happened immediately after the November pogrom, whose victims also included the Bernheimer family. In the night between 9 and 10 November 1938, not only episodes of wilful destructions took place at the company’s headquarters, the Bernheimer palais at Lenbachplatz. Members of the Hitlerjugend (Nazi Youth organisation) also threatened the brothers Kurt and Ludwig Bernheimer as well as their cousin Paul. A little later, Kurt, Ludwig, Otto and Paul Bernheimer were arrested and imprisoned for several weeks at the concentration camp Dachau.

In 1939, Ludwig Bernheimer immigrated to Venezuela, as did his father Otto and his brother Kurt. His uncle Ernst and his cousin Paul also managed to escape abroad. The family continued to lose what remained of its property in Germany. Ever since the night of the pogroms, they had lost all their influence over the company. After more than 20 years, Ludwig Bernheimer finally returned to Germany for good. On his father’s death on 5 July 1960, he succeeded to the directorship of the art and antiquities gallery L. Bernheimer, which had been returned to the family in October 1948.

In that same year 1948, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek informed the Central Reporting Office at Bad Nauheim, that during the Nazi period the Secret State Police had gifted seven volumes to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, which had previously been confiscated from the Bernheimer family. Unfortunately, the former members of staff could not remember the titles of these volumes. There were no further references to these books in the files of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Even though the volumes bore the entry "G.n. 14428", which identified them as "gifts" by the Gestapo, Ludwig Bernheimer had left no traces inside, which would have authenticated him as the previous owner. Only the receipt, dated December 1938, rediscovered only in 2007 in a file belonging to the Münchner Stadtmuseum (Munich Municipal Museum), contained all necessary details. This information finally allowed for the identification of these titles within the collections of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek 75 years after the theft.

On 18 March 2014, Director General Dr. Rolf Griebel handed the seven books over to Dr. Francisca Bernheimer, daughter of Dr. Ludwig Bernheimer. They form part of a 23-volume series on Spain, published by the Australian Albert F. Calvert (1872 – 1946) in the early 20th century. When going to press, the publishing house had originally advertised the "Spanish Series" as containing over 6,000 illustrations in total. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek solely held the seven volumes, stolen by the Gestapo from Ludwig Bernheimer.

The returned volumes continue to be listed in the online catalogue of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. A commentary regarding their provenance and restitution has been added, which may be consulted under the heading "More title information". They can be found by entering "BSB-Provenienz: Dr. Ludwig Bernheimer" into the "Basic search" of the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue.

BSB-Provenienz: Dr. Ludwig Bernheimer  (display in the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue)

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