Provenance Research at Municipal Collections of Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Wittenberg, 2020
Wittenberg, 2020.
Neumann, Berlin, 1933
Oscar R. Neumann, Ernst Hartert and Erwin Stresemann on September 5, 1933 in Berlin. Photo by A.J. van Rossem

Provenance Research at the Municipal Collections of Lutherstadt Wittenberg on the Natural History and Ethnography Collection of Julius Riemer, especially from the collector Oscar R. Neumann, from 1933 to 1945

Facts & Files was commissioned by the Municipal Collections of Lutherstadt Wittenberg to conduct provenance research on objects from the collection of Julius Riemer. 

The project was funded by the City of Wittenberg and the German Lost Art Foundation, and focused on the objects which Riemer received from the Berlin zoologist Oscar Rudolph Neumann (1867-1946).

The project started in August 2020 and was finished in February 2022.

The provenance of this part of the collection was investigated to establish evidence of the transactions between Julius Riemer and Oscar R. Neumann, and to be able to exclude or also prove a possibly persecution-related seizure of property.

For this purpose, files from the Hausarchiv Riemer, files from the German Federal Archives, the files on conficsation, restitution, and compensation of Oscar Neumann’s family, as well as records from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Harvard University, the Harvard Zoological Museum, the Natural History Museum London, and the Field Museum in Chicago were researched.

Oscar Neumann and his family were discriminated and persecuted as Jews in Germany from the beginning of 1933. The transfer or sale of the various objects and Oscar Neumann’s library shortly before his escape in 1941 to Julius Riemer are to be considered as persecution-related loss of property according to the guidelines for the implementation of the Washington Principles and the Common Statement.

During the Second World War, some objects of Julius Riemer’s collections in Berlin were destroyed by bombing. In 1948, Riemer brought many of the remaining objects to Wittenberg to build up the museum. In the following years, some of them were given to other museums.

Of the objects still presumed to be in Wittenberg today, 24 items were demonstrably acquired by Julius Riemer from Oscar Neumann after 1940. A total of 1,514 objects, which according to the inventory books are in Wittenberg, were collected by Johann J. Menden on behalf of Oscar Neumann and were merely to be stored by Julius Riemer.


Beate Schreiber

P: +49 (0)30 / 480 986 20



Project in the Media

“Mitteldeutsche Zeitung” vom 18. April 2021: “Julius Riemers Vergangenheit wird in Wittenberg beleuchtet.

Die Stadt legt den ersten Zwischenbericht in Sachen Provenienzforschung zur Sammlung von Julius Riemer vor. Was die Recherchen ergeben haben.”

“TAZ” vom 30. September 2021: “Kunst ohne Kontext”

“Museen müssen die Geschichte ihrer Sammlungen erforschen. Denn vieles wurde geraubt, mitgenommen, unredlich erworben.”

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