Ölgemälde. Das Innere einer holzvertäfelten Bauernstube mit Kommode und Schemel.
Ernst Immanuel Müller: Bauernstube (Farmhouse Parlor), pre-1915.

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

A whirlwind of emotions

“When I received a letter from Director General Maaz, I was overwhelmed and in a whirlwind of emotions – at the same time, I couldn’t believe it, and I felt overjoyed but also sad.” This is how Miriam Friedmann describes her reaction to finding out that a painting that once belonged to her grandparents Selma and Ludwig Friedmann was to be returned to her.

Ölgemälde. Das Innere einer holzvertäfelten Bauernstube mit Kommode und Schemel.
The Friedmanns were a respected family from Augsburg. Selma and Ludwig Friedmann lived in the heart of the city with their four children: Friedrich Georg, Anna, Elisabeth, and Otto.

Private archive Friedmann

Selma and Ludwig Friedmann

The Friedmanns were a respected family from Augsburg. Selma and Ludwig Friedmann lived in the heart of the city with their four children: Friedrich Georg, Anna, Elisabeth, and Otto.

Besuchskarte mit Abbildung des herrschaftlichen Geschäftshauses
The company premises on Annaplatz, as it was then known, in Augsburg, around 1906. Häußler collection, Augsburg.

Sammlung Häußler, Augsburg 🔍 Move the mouse over the image to zoom in

Second-generation textile manufacturers

The Friedmanns were successful entrepreneurs. They ran a linen and wool products company that Ludwig had taken over from his parents.

Ganzseitiger Zeitungsartikel über die Firma
Newspaper feature about the company, ca. 1932.

Sammlung Häußler, Augsburg 🔍 Move the mouse over the image to zoom in

Founded in 1872, the company became one of the leading linen manufacturers in southern Germany and was a major employer for Augsburg and the surrounding region.

Schwarzweißfotografie. Gebäude mit Rundbogenfenstern und Kuppeldach
Ludwig Friedmann was a judge at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. He was also an active member of the Israelite Religious Community and served as its deputy chairman.

Stadtarchiv Augsburg, FS FA B 3853

Ludwig Friedmann was a judge at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. He was also an active member of the Israelite Religious Community and served as its deputy chairman.

A family torn apart
Aquarell. Zug am Bahnsteig in einer Bahnhofshalle, eine Frau blickt dem Zug nach.
Ernest Meyer: The Last Goodbye, 1939.

Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem. Gift of artist in memory of his parents, Gustav and Johanna Meyer

The children flee overseas

After the National Socialists assumed power, the Friedmanns were immediately subjected to repressive measures.

Their eldest son Friedrich Georg was interned briefly in 1933 and excluded from university. He fled to Italy the same year. After the introduction of the Nuremberg Race Laws, Anna Friedmann was not allowed to take her apprenticeship examinations to qualify as a dressmaker. She fled to England in 1935. In 1938 the Friedmanns’ youngest son, Otto, was prohibited from attending school. His parents sent him to London on a Kindertransport when he was 12. Elisabeth was the last of the children to leave; she emigrated to the USA when she was 19. The children would never see their parents again.

Schwarzweißfotografie. Großes Gebäude an einem Platz, mit Hakenkreuzflaggen
The Friedmanns’ former premises on 5 Martin-Luther-Platz after the ‘Aryanization’ of the company, 1940.

Sammlung Häußler, Augsburg

Economic ruin

The family were progressively stripped of their economic livelihood. Ludwig Friedmann was forced to relinquish his posts and had to sell the company and the family home. The proceeds were transferred to a blocked account.

Forced relocation and death

In 1942 Selma and Ludwig Friedmann had to move into a so-called Jew house (Judenhaus), where they lived with other Jews in extremely cramped conditions. It was here that they received notification that they were to be deported on 8 March 1943.

They knew what lay ahead. Selma’s mother Flora Fromm had been murdered in Theresienstadt in June 1942 and acquaintances had also told them of the dreadful fate of those deported ‘to the East’. deportiert wurden.

With no way out, Ludwig and Selma Friedmann and three other couples with whom they were friends took their own lives on the evening before the planned deportation.

The painting Bauernstube was with them until the end of their lives.

Maschinengetippte Liste von Gegenständen
Delivery note from Augsburg Tax Office

Staatsarchiv Augsburg, Wiedergutmachungsbehörde V für Schwaben, JR-Akten 1356 f, p. 1 of 2

‘Utilization’ of the Friedmanns’ property

After the Friedmanns’ death, the municipal administration cleared their room in the ‘Jew house’. A municipal official inspected the property left behind and all items that could be ‘utilized’ were labeled with a four-digit number. These items were transferred to the Municipal Welfare Office. The delivery note contained a precise list of everything that Ludwig and Selma had been able to retain from their once extensive household inventory, right down to the oilcloth tablecloth and the 16 tea towels.

Mit Schreibmaschine geschriebener Brief.
Ernst Buchner, the former director general of the Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections), received an offer to purchase the painting Bauernstube. The subject line of the letter read: ‘Utilization of cultural property from Jewish ownership’. Buchner acquired the painting in May 1943.

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Registratur, Bildakte 10859

The painting Bauernstübe is sold to a Munich buyer

Ernst Buchner, the former director general of the Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections), received an offer to purchase the painting Bauernstube. The subject line of the letter read: ‘Utilization of cultural property from Jewish ownership’. Buchner acquired the painting in May 1943.

Search for clues

Farbfotografie. Aufkleber auf Holzrahmen.
Label on the back of the frame.

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

‘From Jewish ownership’

More than seventy years later, provenance researcher Anja Zechel investigated the origins of the painting. From the sales documentation it was clear that it was ‘formerly Jewish-owned’.

More than seventy years later, provenance researcher Anja Zechel investigated the origins of the painting. From the sales documentation it was clear that it was ‘formerly Jewish-owned’.

Farbfotografie. Aufkleber auf Holzrahmen.
Label from Galerie Heinemann.

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

This label from Galerie Heinemann in Munich was an important clue.

Schwarzweißfotografie. Herrschaftliches mehrstöckiges Gebäude an einem Platz mit Springbrunnen
Galerie Heinemann at Lenbachplatz in Munich.

Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Photothek, Inv. Nr. Th219564

Until it was ‘Aryanized’ in 1938, Galerie Heinemann was one of the most important art dealerships in Germany. It was located on Lenbachplatz in Munich.

Karteikarte, handschriftlich ausgefüllt
The index card recording the sale.

Nürnberg, GNM, Deutsches Kunstarchiv, NL Heinemann, KV-M-696

The gallery’s customer records have survived and can now be viewed online. Here the provenance researcher found the date of sale and the buyer’s name: Ludwig Friedmann from Augsburg. He bought Bauernstube in June 1919. His daughter Elisabeth had recently been born; perhaps this was the motivation for the purchase.

Rückseite eines auf Leinwand gemalten Ölgemäldes
Back of the painting.

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen 🔍 Über das Bild mit der Maus fahren, um zu vergrößern

Another important clue was to be found on the back of the painting: the number 1157 on the canvas . This is the missing item number from the list of property for ‘utilization’ which Anja Zechel had discovered when consulting the reparations files in the archive. Presumably the painting was initially meant to be transferred to the Welfare Office with the household goods and was given the number 1157, between the oil painting with the number 1156 and the small suitcase numbered 1158.

Ausschnitt aus einer Liste, die mit Schreibmaschine geschrieben ist.
Delivery note from Augsburg Tax Office (excerpt).

Staatsarchiv Augsburg, Wiedergutmachungsbehörde V für Schwaben, JR-Akten 1356 f, p. 1 of 2

The painting was then subsequently classed as cultural property, which is presumably why it was removed (‘gestrichen’) from the list in a subsequent copy.

Historische Scchwarz-Weiß-Fotografie. Große repräsentative Gebäude, Springbrunnen.
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich in the 1960s.

Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Photothek, Inv. Nr. 125312

Return of the painting

The painting had obviously been acquired unlawfully and had to be restituted. But to whom? It was not difficult to locate the heirs. Ludwig and Selma Friedmann’s eldest son, Friedrich Georg, had in fact returned to Germany in 1960. He established the Department for American Studies at the University of Munich. His daughter Miriam Friedmann also moved to Germany in 2001, to her grandparents’ home town of Augsburg. She was the first point of contact in the restitution process.

Zwei Personen rechts und links eines Gemäldes in Goldrahmen
Miriam Friedmann, Selma und Ludwig Friedmann’s granddaughter, receives the painting from director general Bernhard Maaz.

Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

In July 2018 the painting Bauernstube was restituted in Augsburg to Miriam Friedmann as representative of the joint heirs.

‘Through the return of this painting we have got back an item that once gave joy to my grandparents’, observes Miriam Friedmann. ‘As Anja Zechel’s painstaking research has revealed, my grandparents kept hold of this painting even after they had been dispossessed and forced to live cooped up in a so-called Jew house. It was indeed the only item they had left to remind them of their former life. It was hanging on the wall when they took their lives the night before their deportation together with 3 other couples with whom they were friends. The painting bore witness to what happened.’

For Miriam the return of the painting fills in a gap: ‘For my parents, as for so many others, talking about the past was painful. And therefore a chapter was missing from all our lives. The return of this painting also gives us back a little piece of this history.’

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