Von Klemperer collection of rare books in Sotheby's sale. The Observer, 6/16/1991
Sottihielb's seeCts Sowiett spaSDs Peter Watson SOTHEBY'S, the international auction house, is understood to be negotiating in Moscow for the return of a number of art and rare book collections that were looted from Germany, the Netherlands and France during the Second World War and taken to the Soviet Union. The company is ; not saying which collections are involved but much, new information has come to light as a result of glas-nost and, particularly, the reunification of Germany. Officials in what was formerly East Germany are now providing information on works of art destroyed or removed to the Soviet Union to former residents or their descendants who fled such areas during World War II. In some cases, certain Red Army units and individual officers who removed the collections have been identified, as have the probable locations of the objects in the USSR. Several of the victims of the lootings have told Sotheby's that they intend to sell their collections once they are returned. Reich riches: Von Klemperer with Prof Haebler, who catalogued the collection. Bound for a museum In Unz, Hitler's childhood home, the books turned up In Dresden; The auction house is well placed to offer help as it has three senior executives who make regular visits to Moscow. Sotheby's has become well known to officials in the Ministry of Culture since the company held a widely publicised auction of modern Russian art in Moscow in 1988. But negotiating manoeuvres open to private individuals are harder to use where public collections are concerned. The contents of the Prussian State Museums from Berlin are also believed to be in Moscow. In particular, Sotheby's is understood to have told the Soviets that they can keep a proportion of these private collections -10 pier cent is a figure mentioned if they return the rest promptly. According to one source, some of the collections could be released 'within two years'. Some idea of the quality of the looted collections can be gained from the Von Klemperer Collection of rare books, which : is to be auctioned in London on 28 June, also by Sotheby's. - Dr Victor von Klemperer (1876-1942) was a director of the Dresdner Bank, which his father founded. A collector of medieval ihanuscripts and early printed books, he also inherited a fine collection of porcelain, but was forced to leave Germany in 1938. off waiir The collection was earmarked for a proposed museum in jLinz, Austria, where Adolf Hitler spent his early years. Most of the the porcelain was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden. But the books survived and Dr von Klemperer's children have now located some of them in Dresden's Sachsische Landesbibliothek and the Dresden Library. These are the books in the sale. Of. the original 500 von Klemperer incunabula (books printed before 1500), however, only 30 are in the Sotheby's auction, which is expected to bring 400,000. That the other books are in the USSR is confirmed by the fact that the incunabula found in Dresden had interleaved notes in Russian made by a Soviet scholar. The books are now believed to be in the, Lenin Library and are certainly one of the collections Sotheby's is trying hard to prise loose. H Of the many other books still missing since the Second World War, the most famous is a two-Volume Gutenberg Bible, containing a number of miniatures. Now worth millions, it was last seen in Leipzig.