Die Einbringung des „Liegenden Löwen“ aus der Sammlung von Rudolf Mosse in die James Simon Galerie. Foto: David von Becker
August Gaul: Liegender Löwe (Reclining Lion ), 1903.

National Museums in Berlin / David von Becker

The Mosse Palais between Leipziger Platz und Voßstraße, Berlin.

HDS Architecture, Boston

In the upper foyer of the James Simon Galerie in Berlin, visitors are greeted by a stone lion.

This lion was originally located not on Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island) but in a palatial residence on Leipziger Platz.

Academy of German Law, Voßstraße 22, front view of Leipziger Platz 15 (former residence of Rudolf Mosse)
The facade of the Mosse Palais on Leipziger Platz, 1935.

bpk / Atelier Bieber/Nather

Main entrance of the Mosse Palais on Voßstraße, 1935.

bpk / Atelier Bieber/Nather

The entrance in Voßstraße with the lion sculpture, 1935.

bpk / Atelier Bieber/Nather

The newspaper publisher Rudolf Mosse and his wife Emilie had this magnificent building constructed in the 1880s as their home but also to accommodate their ever-growing art collection.

Visitors were greeted by the stone lion at the main entrance in Voßstraße. In 1902 the Mosses commissioned the sculptor August Gaul to create this work.

Fritz von Uhde: Gang nach Bethlehem (The Journey to Bethlehem), 1890, from the Mosse collection. Restituted in 2017 and repurchased for the Museum Wiesbaden.

Museum Wiesbaden / Bernd Fickert

Ludwig von Hofmann: Frühlingssturm (Spring Storm), 1894/95, from the Mosse collection. Restituted in 2015, now located in the Institut Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt on permanent loan from a private collection.

Institut Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt / Gregor Schuster

The Mosse Collection

Rudolf and Emilie Mosse had an eclectic collection that ranged from classical art, old masters, and artisan crafts to East Asian art. However, the focus of their collection was on German realist painting, particularly from the period coinciding with Mosse’s career. The couple owned paintings by Böcklin, Leibl, Lenbach, Liebermann, and Spitzweg.

They wanted other people to enjoy their art collection too. The private museum, jokingly referred to as the “Mosseum”, was open to the public.

The Mosses also had an extensive library which could be used by scholars.

Family background

Markus Mosse.

Leo Baeck Institute New York/Berlin

Rudolf Mosse was not born into vast wealth. He came from a large Jewish family: born in 1843, he was the sixth of 14 children. His father Markus Mosse was a doctor and his mother Ulrike came from the small provincial town of Grätz, near Posen (today: Poznań, Poland).

The younger members of the family were drawn to Berlin, which was booming. The city offered career prospects and sales opportunities, but it was also rich in culture and had a liberal religious climate.

A stellar career

Front page of the “Gartenlaube” magazine, 1866.

Wikimedia commons, public domain

Rudolf Mosse completed an apprenticeship as a bookseller. In Berlin he started out with a modest career as a bookshop assistant and sales representative. He sold advertising space for the popular illustrated magazine “Die Gartenlaube” and in this capacity travelled across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Catalogue of the Rudolf Mosse Annoncen-Expedition (Advertising Brokerage), 1901.

Berlin State Library. Public Domain Mark 1.0

This job provided the inspiration for his business model. He leased entire advertising pages in newspapers across the world and sold the space to clients wishing to place advertisements. This was a bold move for a 24-year-old, but it paid off: by 1872 Mosse’s company had 250 branches in Germany and abroad.

Office in the Mosse publishing house in Berlin, around 1920.


At the same time, he built up a publishing empire. Together with his brother-in-law Emil Cohn, he published several high-circulation newspapers: the Berliner Tageblatt, which by 1933 had become the largest liberal newspaper in Germany, the Berliner Morgen-Zeitung, the Berliner Volkszeitung, and the Abendblatt.

Charitable work and patronage

The home run by the Mosse Foundation in Berlin-Schmargendorf.

Archive of the citizens’s initiative Mosse erinnern! (Remember Mosse!)

This is how Rudolf Mosse amassed his fortune. He also let others share in his wealth. He and his wife were actively engaged in the arts, science , and charitable causes. For example, they created the Emilie and Rudolf Mosse Foundation, which ran a home for children in need.

Rudolf and Emilie Mosse, around 1918.

Leo Baeck Institute. https://www.europeana.eu/item/09312/862652

On the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1913, Rudolf Mosse donated 1.58 million Reichsmarks to charity. A total of 21 different social institutions received a share of the money, for example the Berlin pension scheme, Virchow Hospital, and organizations for the homeless.

Mosse also supported Berlin’s museums and helped them to make purchases.

For example, he funded a trip by Heinrich Brugsch to Lower Egypt to conduct research and make acquisitions and later donated several hundred artefacts, including some spectacular objects, to the Egyptian Museum.

German Democratic Party (DDP) campaign poster for the elections to the German National Assembly, 1919.

bpk / Deutsches Historisches Museum / Sebastian Ahlers

The publisher was also active in the field of politics. After the fall of the German monarchy in November 1918, Rudolf Mosse participated in the foundation of the German Democratic Party (DDP), which sought to liberalize society on the basis of bourgeois notions of reform.

Continuation of the Mosse empire

Hans and Felicia Lachmann-Mosse, Berlin, 1909.

Leo Baeck Institute New York/Berlin

Felicia Lachmann-Mosse and her children, around 1920.

Leo Baeck Institute New York/Berlin

Rudolf Mosse died in 1920 and his wife Emilie in 1924. Both were laid to rest in the Jewish Cemetery in Berlin-Weißensee.

The couple’s daughter Felicia and her husband Hans Lachmann-Mosse inherited the Mosse empire.

They had three children: Rudolf, Gerhard, and Hilde.

Video: background to the economic crisis.

However, times were hard. The worldwide economic crisis triggered by the stock market crash of 1929 along with competition from radio and film brought the publishing empire to the brink of bankruptcy.

At the same time, the National Socialists had now become such a political force that the firm could not be saved.

Agitation and Aryanization

Even before 1933, the Mosse publishing house was among Hitler’s declared enemies. After coming to power that year, the National Socialists no longer hid their contempt. The Völkische Beobachter, a Nazi newspaper, denounced Lachmann-Mosse as a “symbol of the Jewish press [Pressejude] who is harmful to the [German] people”. The antisemitic smear sheet Der Stürmer published an article slandering Rudolf Mosse.

Dispossession and emigration

Hans and Felicia Lachmann-Mosse were put under immense pressure. The Nazis coerced them into signing papers to convert the Mosse publishing house into a limited company known as the Rudolf Mosse Foundation – the first step towards the ‘Aryanization’ of this major Jewish enterprise. In return the couple and their three children were permitted to leave Germany for Switzerland in spring 1933. From there they emigrated via France to the USA.

Adolf Pochwadt, representative of the Rudolf Mosse Foundation, to Minister of Culture Rust, 13 June 1933.

National Museums in Berlin, Central Archive, I/NG 935, sheet 345

“The entire assets of the former sole owner Lachmann-Mosse that are located in Germany are hereby transferred to the Rudolf Mosse Foundation. […] The Rudolf Mosse Foundation intends to dispose of these and other assets.”

The looted art collection

The looted assets included Rudolf Mosse’s art collection. The new regime offered to sell the collection to the Nationalgalerie (National Gallery). However, the sale never took place. Alois Schardt, who was acting head of the museum in 1933, turned the offer down and was only interested in individual items.

Advertisement for the Mosse auction on 29 and 30 May 1934, in: Weltkunst, 20 May 1934, p. 3.

Forced sale

The art collection and the entire furnishings of the Mosse Palais were ultimately sold in 1934 at two auctions. The sale prices exceeded all expectations and the National Socialists made millions.

The lion in solitary splendor among the ruins, August 1945.

bpk / Art Library, SMB, Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

Soviet soldiers have their picture taken with the artwork in 1945.

bpk / Friedrich Seidenstücker

Wartime destruction

At the end of the war, the Mosse Palais was in ruins. Yet the lion sculpture remained intact between the blown out walls. It was salvaged and brought to the Museum Island, where it stood for many years in the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery).

“A large reclining panther […] from a garden in Voßstraße”. From the “Provenance Trace ” guide in the app of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz


Roman child’s sarcophagus, marble, 2nd century AD . Restituted in 2015, repurchased in 2016.

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung / Johannes Laurentius. CC BY-SA 4.0

August Gaul: Liegender Löwe (Reclining Lion), limestone, 1903. Restituted in 2015, repurchased in 2016.

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Andres Kilger. CC BY-SA 4.0

Reinhold Begas: Susanna - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Andres Kilger
Reinhold Begas: Susanna, marble, 1869/1870. Restituted in 2016, repurchased in 2017.

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Andres Kilger. Public Domain Mark 1.0

In the course of their provenance research, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) came across several artworks originally from Rudolf and Emilie Mosse’s collection. In 2015 and 2016 these were returned to the family’s heirs.

Three of the works could be repurchased and are still to be found on the Museum Island today. Among them is the stone lion which once greeted visitors in the courtyard of the Mosse Palais.

“A Ton of Marble – Shifting a Sculpture Through Six Political Systems”. From the “Provenance Trace” in the app of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library) also identified works in its holdings which were originally owned by the Mosses. It returned 45 books and the “Album Amicorum”.

This album contains messages to Rudolf Mosse from friends and associates on his 70th birthday. It is a special testimony to Mosse’s network of contacts and evidence of his significance in the economic and intellectual life of Berlin at the time.

Film by Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg on Rudolf Mosse

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