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Jüdische Weisheit


The looting of furniture from Jewish households

An exhibition at the
Museum Kaiserliches Hofmobiliendepot / Imperial Furniture Collection
in Vienna (7 September to 19 November 2000)

[deutsch] [english] [français]












"Aryanisation" is the term used to refer to the looting and expropriation - initially uncontrolled without a legal basis, later on organised by the state - of Jewish property in the Nazi era. In recent years this term has been used in public discussions only in connection with spectacular cases of looted works of art. However, the "Gestapo", the secret state police in the Nazi era, looted not only works of art, money and other valuable assets. They also took away objects of daily use from Jewish households: cutlery from kitchen drawers, linen kept in cupboards, and photographs on the walls - nothing was safe.

Furnishings from eight "Aryanised" Jewish households in Vienna were stored in the state-owned "Depot of Movables" after the "Anschluss", the annexation of Austria by Germany, in March 1938. Many of these objects were entered in the inventories and thus became state property. Only few items were returned to their former owners after the war had ended.

During the Nazi era and until 1998, pieces of furniture from among these objects were lent -

in conformity with the basic function of the "Depot of Movables" - primarily to offices of the public administration. Until recently, these pieces of furniture were used in government offices, Austrian embassies abroad, theatres, etc., the new users unaware of where these objects came from. Since 1994, the "Depot of Movables" has been doing research on these objects. Since 1998, on the basis of the Austrian Federal Law on the Restitution of Works of Art, objects have been returned to the families of their former owners.

This is the historical starting point of the exhibition. Its subject is the "Aryanisation" of the households of eight Jewish families in Vienna and the way in which the public institution dealt with these household objects until recently. Although the cases presented in the exhibition are only a small aspect of the extensive looting of Jewish property, these examples show the mechanics of this violent process: e.g. the transformation of looting and expropriation into a dry and formalised bureaucratic process and the way in which such a process was made "normal" and "legal" by the institutions involved.

A central part of the exhibition is the display of photographs arranged by the photographer Arno Gisinger. A comprehensive catalogue will appear when the exhibition opens. The project is a contribution to the "Aryanisation debate" in Austria. This cannot be left to politicians alone but must proceed at all levels of society: not least within, and with, the institutions which were involved in what happened during the Nazi era.


Kaiserliches Hofmobiliendepot
(Imperial Furniture Collection)
Mariahilfer Strasse 88 / entrance Andreasgasse 7
A-1070 Vienna

Organised by

MMD (Museen des Mobiliendepots)
AG theoretische und angewandte Museologie / IFF

Concept and direction

Ilsebill Barta-Fliedl
Herbert Posch

Arrangement of photographs

Arno Gisinger

Public relations

Eva Grabherr
Tel/fax ++43 1 4700819,
++43 664 1536536
e-mail: 13-09-2000


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