"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
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.
(Imperial Furniture Collection)
Mariahilfer Strasse 88 / entrance Andreasgasse 7
MMD (Museen des Mobiliendepots)
AG theoretische und angewandte Museologie / IFF
Concept and direction
Arrangement of photographs
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