Since November 2021, there has been a position at the museum, funded by the German Center for the Loss of Cultural Property and the State Office for Non-State Museums in Bavaria, that deals exclusively with provenance research.
During the founding period of the museum, which was established in the synagogue building complex in the 1980s, objects were handed over to the JMAS by the Jewish Community of Swabia-Augsburg (IKG), among others. Thus, a part of the objects to be examined is composed of former possessions of the IKG from the pre- and post-war period. Among them are numerous objects from the former Jewish communities of Bavarian Swabia, which either came into the possession of the IKG Augsburg before 1933 or were transferred to it after 1945 through restitution. After an initial inventory, the provenance of the silver and textile Judaica in particular shows considerable gaps. Therefore, it is necessary to systematically examine the provenance of the selected holdings, to research history and ownership, especially in the period between 1933 and 1945, and to document them as completely as possible.
The starting point for the research was an item list from the archives of the JMAS, which was found during research work and represents the basic stock of the museums collection. In addition to obsolete inventory numbers assigned by the IKG, other inventory numbers with a different inventory numbering scheme were also assigned. Initial assumptions regarding an Aryanization that took place in 1938 could already be confirmed by means of an overview research: The ritual objects formerly belonging to the Jewish Community of Augsburg had been transferred to a municipal museum in Augsburg during the National Socialist era. After 1945, the ceremonial objects were formally restituted to the IKG. However, it seems that with the establishment of the JMAS, some of the restituted objects were given to the museum without the community being aware of it. The community suspects the cult objects to be missing until today.
The research project will now finally clarify the provenance and ownership of the objects in question. The results of the research will be made publicly accessible through an online exhibition after completion of the project. In addition, the findings are to be integrated into the new permanent exhibition in the coming years. After completion of the renovation work planned for the synagogue, there will be a special exhibition that will vividly present the results of the provenance research.
So far, the municipal archives of the IKG have been evaluated in the course of the project. Where available, acquisition and transfer files as well as private correspondence from the museum archive have been evaluated. The discovered and relevant documents will be continuously entered into the museum’s new database and linked to each other until the end of the project. In addition, all objects will be subjected to an object autopsy and decisively examined for their provenance characteristics. This has already yielded extremely informative conclusions and findings, which are also recorded in the internal database. Subsequently, a comparison is made with earlier JMAS inventory catalogs as well as with those of the former municipal museum. In addition, the JMAS is committed to a comparison of the Theodor Harburg inventory with the existing objects.
It is easy to see here how the objects were maintained in Harburger’s time. In this way, the first chronological delimitations can be made as to whether the condition of the objects has changed. It is also necessary to take selected objects to a restorer in order to be able to guarantee the current condition of the objects.
The next step is to visit and evaluate the regional archives, first and foremost those of the city of Augsburg. In a second step, the other regional and national archives will also be examined. We will keep you up to date!