Most of us know about World War II and the widespread genocide carried out by the Nazis. Many, though, are unaware of the fact that that the Nazis stole tons of money, possessions, and artwork from their victims.
Stories like that of Max Stern, the art historian, gallery owner, and arts philanthropist, who had his collection looted and his career almost destroyed by the Nazis, are an eye opener and a reminder that justice still hasn’t been completely carried out. Luckily, the Jewish Museum of Florida‘s “Auktion 392” exhibit tells the story of Nazi pillaging and the difficulties of returning many priceless works of arts to their rightful owners. Just as importantly, the exhibit actually displays some of that stolen and eventually found art.
New Times: Why is it important for the Jewish Museum of Florida to exhibit Auktion 392?
Marcia Jo Zerivetz: Because restitution of Nazi-looted art is a very hot topic in the art world today. Private collectors, galleries, and museums that do not check the provenance of what they buy or show may be holding art that belongs to a Jewish family from which the Nazi stole their art. I have been told that 25 museums in the U.S. have already returned “looted art” and there could be many more that are unaware. This exhibit increases awareness of the topic.
Do you think it is important for Jews and non-Jews alike to see the exhibit?
Absolutely. This is a topic for anyone interested in justice — in seeing that the art is returned to its rightful, legal owners.
How did the Nazis affect Jewish art, artists, and art collectors?
They took it all and destroyed generations of culture. This represents a black period of history when the law was not upheld, when the Nazis attempted to destroy the culture of Europe and determine what was art and what was not. They declared that everything belonged to them and they would determine its fate. They destroyed the livelihoods of Jewish families by taking away the licenses of all professionals and businesspeople, businesses that had been built over generations.
Auktion 392 is already open and runs until April 25 at the Jewish Museum of Florida (301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach). Tickets cost between $5 and $6 for individuals. A family pass costs $12 and museum members get in free. Visit jewishmuseum.com or call 305-672-5044.