The Portrait of Esther The Black Notebook

The massive confiscation of art collections

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Episode I - page 78

The threat hanging over the Blum family is palpable.

Interior of Alphonse Kann’s apartment, Winter 1935-1936
(Album de photographies Alphonse Kann, MAEDI,
récupération artistique [209SUP]/983_085).
© Archives ministère des Affaires étrangères

In 1940, Hitler ordered the appropriation of private art collections belonging to French Jewish families. Based on these new laws, artworks could now be seized and sent to Germany. If they did not appeal to the occupiers’ tastes, they could even be destroyed. The Nazis added considerably to their own personal collections with these confiscated artworks—a further humiliation to the Jewish population, already stripped of their citizenship.

In the story, the gallerist Galande advises Jakob Blum to put his collection in safekeeping. He is aware that some very large private collections were seized during the summer of 1940, from families like the Kanns and the Rothschilds.