The colourfully woven upholstery of the two green chairs (high-backed chairs) shows violins on the left and bagpipes on the right.
© Stadtmuseum Berlin | Photo: Stefan Petri

The “Reichsbank Furniture”

They came to the Märkisches Museum as a transfer from the Ministry of Finance of the GDR in the 1950s: 47 French antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. What does French furniture have to do with Berlin’s urban history? A contribution from provenance research.

The Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin has been conducting systematic provenance research since 2008. This was funded by the Stiftung Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste and the State of Berlin. In this way, the Stadtmuseum Berlin is fulfilling its obligation to check its collections for the legality of acquisitions.

The “Provenance Research Day” was an occasion for Dr Regina Stein and her team to draw attention to a project going on behind the scenes at the Stadtmuseum Berlin: provenance research into the origin of the so-called “Reichsbank Furniture” – 47 French antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The pencil inscription “sent Paris 13.VII.1943” found under a table
© Stadtmuseum Berlin | Photo: Stefan Petri

In search of traces

Inventory book entries show: The origin of the furniture is closely interwoven with Berlin and Paris. An inscription in pencil under a table, “abgesandt Paris 13.VII.1943” (“sent Paris 13.VII.1943”), leads back to German-occupied France.
The furniture came to Berlin from Paris to furnish the rooms of the Reichsbank.

They survived the Second World War in the buildings of the former Reichsbank in Berlin-Mitte, whose users changed rapidly in the post-war period: Soviet Commandant’s Office, Stadtkontor Berlin and the Ministry of Finance of the GDR. Finally, it was transported to the Märkisches Museum.

Chronologically backwards

Our current research into the history of the furniture goes backwards chronologically and, in addition to inventory books, chronicles, photographs and files, also takes into account every feature we find on the furniture: various numbers, stickers, stamps, names of cabinetmakers and handwritten notes. So we not only deal with the history of the collection at the house, with GDR history and the Berlin post-war period. The traces also lead us back to the National Socialist era and to the production of the pieces in France.

All the findings are gradually pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle and help to answer the crucial questions: Is the furniture possibly connected to unlawful seizure during the Paris occupation and who are the rightful owners of the furniture?

Dr. Regina Stein
Fachteam Zentrale Dokumentation
(030) 353 059-573