Appropriating the Jewish property by Nazi Germany and its vassals was common practice before and during World War II. In Slovakia, a few “nationalized” works of art eventually found their way into gallery collections. Alas, most of the stolen artefacts were auctioned off – often below value – and irretrievably lost.
The declaration of the Slovak state on March 14, 1939 was followed by adjudication of the protection pact which established the cooperation with the Nazi Germany. By newly legislated law, persons of Jewish origin were stripped of their business, land and properties. All their monetary asset and personal possession was stored in the bank frozen deposits. All objects of artistic value were also seized by the state.
The artefacts appropriated from the Jewish families were recorded and evaluated by two art historians Alžbeta Güntherová-Mayerová and Vladimír Wagner. The transfer to the state collection included only 14 paintings and 433 coins, the rest ended up at auctions, the profit from which was claimed by the state.
After the war, three more paintings came to the state collections. One of them depicting Lot and two angels was sold to the SNG by Alžbeta Güntherová-Mayerová. The painting of praying miners by Gyula Szent Istvány was sold to the SNG by its rightful owner Ing. Eugen Bárkány from Prešov, who managed to obtain it back after the Shoa. Except for this case, the original owners of the artefacts have not been traced.
In 2023, it is the tenth anniversary of the exhibition The Shadow of the Past, realized in cooperation with the Slovak National Gallery and the Jewish Community Museum in Bratislava. For the first time, the exhibition thematised the process of appropriation of art objects from Jewish property. The essential pillar of the research carried out in 2009 and 2010 were the documents from the Archive of the Monuments Institute of the Slovak Republic.
The catalogue of the exhibition in the Slovak-English language version also includes the list of Aryanised works of art and thus presents an effective tool for provenance research.
The works in the collection are currently copyright free and available for download in high resolution.
ŠVANTNEROVÁ, Jana a kol.: Tieň minulosti / The Shadow of the Past, Bratislava: Neinvestičný fond židovského kultúrneho dedičstva - Menorah, 2013.