Anna Caspari

The raid executed by the Munich Gestapo headquarters at the turn of the year 1938/ 1939 touched the property of the art dealer Anna Caspari (1900 – 1941) among other Jewish families in Munich. During the campaign, nicknamed "safeguarding cultural assets", her then residence at the Hotel Continental as well as the warehouse on Briennerstraße 52 were ransacked on 19 January 1939. In total, 22 paintings, 140 books as well as an unspecified number of prints and drawings were stolen on the occasion.

The complete set of books went to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in the form of a "gift". During the raid, the library had provided one of their librarians as estimator. These confiscated cultural assets were the remains of the property of the Galerie Caspari, forcibly closed down a few weeks previously.

Georg Caspari (1878 – 1930), originally from Berlin, had founded the gallery in 1913. He had quickly managed to become an established figure in the Munich art trade. The success of the gallery, whose headquarters were located in the Eichthal palais, rested on 19th century works of art and early modernism.

In 1922, Georg Caspari married Anna Naphtali, originally from Breslau, who had come to Munich two years previously to read art history at university. After her husband’s death in an accident in 1930, Anna Caspari directed the gallery despite the deteriorating economic situation and ensuing repression by the Nazi regime up to the final closing of the gallery in the year 1939. In the 1930s she mainly acted as intermediary and appraiser for important art dealers of the "Third Reich", for example Karl Haberstock and Julius Böhler.

From 1938, Anna Caspari tried to immigrate to England, where her two sons, Paul (b. 1922) and Ernst (b. 1926) had been studying at a boarding school near London for several years. Her repeated applications were, however, rejected by the German authorities.

On 20 November 1941, Anna Caspari was deported to Wehrmacht-occupied Lithuania during the first episodes of mass deportations of Jewish citizens from Munich. She was murdered on 25 November in Kaunas.

When redress procedures opened in favour of Anna Caspari’s sons in 1948, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek was questioned for information about her books. The library at first claimed that the books could not be found in the chaos caused by war damage and evacuation and that the loss of the access register made it impossible to identify them. Additional research, however, brought to light that these books, which consisted mainly of works in the fields of art and art history, had been shelved in the former Kunstlesesaal (reading room for art historical books), whose contents had been almost completely consumed by fire. The redress procedure finally ended with a compensation payment to Paul and Ernst Caspari by the Bavarian State in lieu of the stolen books.

As a result of the ongoing search for Nazi loot in the collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, since 2003 four books were discovered whose bookplate allowed to identify them as part of the former property of Georg and Anna Caspari. The internal "gift code" as well hinted at a provenance as "gift" of the Munich Gestapo. After the research had been concluded, the books could be returned to Paul Caspari in London on 28 November 2014.

The returned volumes continue to be displayed in the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue. 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: Anna Caspari" in the "Basic search" of the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue. Since Paul Caspari agreed to the digitization of the volumes, three out of four of the books can be accessed digitally online. An exception is the volume by Herbert Eulenburg, which is still under copyright.

BSB-Provenienz: Anna Caspari  (display in the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue)