History
8:05 am
Tue August 27, 2013

How Posters Stolen By The Nazis Resurfaced At A Jewish Museum In South Florida

Hans Sachs in his Berlin home cerca 1930s
Hans Sachs in his Berlin home cerca 1930s

Hans Sachs left this earth without knowing what happened to his beloved poster collection.

In 1898, when Sachs was a teenager, he began collecting posters in Berlin of advertisements, political propaganda and rare pieces by famed artists such as Cheret, Kandinsky and Lucian Bernhard.

His passion for graphic art was so serious he amassed 12,500 posters and a separate collection of 18,000 tins, postcards and theater programs reflective of this art form.

He kept them stored and on display in a specially built room in his home. But one fateful day in 1938, Nazis swooped in and forced Sachs to pack up and load his entire collection in trucks waiting outside. His collection was swept away.

When Sachs was later thrown into Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, his wife Felicia made a convincing plea to have him released. Shortly after, he, his wife and their one-year-old son Peter fled Germany to live in the United States.

In 1966, Hans Sachs learned that some of his collection had emerged in East Berlin, but he failed to reclaim it. A Harvard-educated dentist and world leading poster collector, he died in 1974.

Chapeaux Roche, J.F. Bubna, Dinse und Eckert, 1911 (ad for hat store)
Chapeaux Roche, J.F. Bubna, Dinse und Eckert, 1911 (ad for hat store)

“My father never discussed what happened to his posters, but he always expressed his love for the art form,” wrote Peter Sachs from Las Vegas, and until recently, was a longtime Sarasota resident.

In 2005,  Peter Sachs unlocked the mystery of the whereabouts of his father’s posters. He did what many do online when a question arises. He Googled it, resulting in the discovery that the German Historical Museum in Berlin had archived and displayed a portion of his father’s collection since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

He sought legal counsel, hired a law firm then launched a painstaking seven-year battle to reclaim his father’s posters from the German museum. The case went all the way to Germany’s high court, and in October 2012, Sachs was finally awarded 4,344 posters, nearly 74 years after they were confiscated.

“It was a bittersweet victory. I felt vindicated by the German High Court ruling, but my father didn’t live to see his beloved posters returned to him. I also thought the German government behaved disgracefully during the whole process,” he wrote.

Die Sunde Wider das Blut, A P W Pinter unknown, 1911
Die Sunde Wider das Blut, A P W Pinter unknown, 1911

Now with the posters intact, Sachs has graciously allowed the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU to showcase 21 of them as part of an exhibition running through December 2013.

“This is the first time a museum in the United States has displayed any of the posters. There is currently an exhibition of some of the posters in Affiche Museum, which is the Dutch Poster Museum in Hoorn, The Netherlands,” Sachs wrote. “ A few years ago, the Jewish Museum [of Florida-FIU] had an exhibition on Nazi looted art. They included information about my father’s collection and my battle to get it back in the exhibition. I felt a special connection to the museum at FIU and always hoped that if I won the court battle, some of the posters would be displayed there.”

And so they are in all their glory with rich, vivid colors still intact.

Visit www.jewishmuseum.com for more information.